The number of migrant kids detained by the Trump administration in a prison camp in Texas and in facilities all across the U.S. continues to soar. The Department of Health and Human Services says that the U.S. has nearly 15,000 children in custody, the vast majority of them minors who came to the U.S. alone, leaving children’s detention facilities near capacity at 92 percent full.
“The situation is forcing the government to consider a range of options,” NPR reports, “possibly including releasing children more quickly to sponsors in the United States or expanding the already crowded shelter network.” But administration officials are actively undermining the former while already doing the latter.
Officials used these kids as bait to arrest 170 immigrants who stepped forward to potentially sponsor them, despite nearly 110 of these adults having no criminal record at all. Because some sponsors are now getting scared away, more kids are remaining in custody for longer periods of time, including children in the Tornillo, Texas, prison camp, which was supposed to “temporary” but has no end in sight.
More than 2,800 kids are now jailed at Tornillo, with capacity for another 1,000. The situation, “a source familiar with Tornillo’s operation” told NPR, “is unsustainable.” But this is a crisis of the administration’s own doing, and an administration that sure loves to tout record numbers—whether or not it’s actually a result of legislation or policy tied to this administration—has been quiet about this horrific record.
Adding to this crisis is that former Trump official Scott Lloyd waived FBI background checks for Tornillo staffers, meaning kids will not only be in jail for Christmas, they could be at added risk. Lloyd should be out on his ass, but he’s instead moved on to another government job. “Detention is never in the best interest of a child,” said Kids In Need of Defense’s Jennifer Podkul, “especially when it’s extended. It’s bad for the child’s mental and physical health.”