Faith leaders and immigrant rights organizations have written a letter calling on Congress to immediately shut down Tornillo Detention Center in Tornillio, Texas.
The detention center, which critics have called “tent city,” is currently holding about 2,324 children ages 13-17, according to The Associated Press. According to the Texas Tribune, the center will grow up to 3,800 beds and will stay open at least until the end of this year.
The group, called Shut Tornillo Down Coalition, says that the center adds to the abuse of vulnerable children by imprisoning them and separating them from their families and causes them deep harm by compounding on already existent trauma.
“The continued existence of Tornillo is in violation of the laws and morals of our nation, especially the eight amendment which gives you the right to due process,” Pete Perry, a peace and social justice activist based in Washington, D.C., told Sojourners.
“It’s preemptive punishment, excessive, cruel and inhumane,” he said.
Perry, along with the rest of the coalition, have organized a protest in Tornillo for Dec. 15, demanding four actions:
- Shut Tornillo down. Release every child in Tornillo to a family member, sponsor, or licensed child welfare placement as expeditiously as possible, as required by the federal law.
- Stop using children as bait to identify undocumented residents of our country. Terminate the policy that requires ICE to fingerprint all sponsors and their household members and allows ICE to use that information for enforcement purposes.
- Do not use Tornillo, or the Tornillo model, for detainees of any age. It is excessive and cruel, cost-prohibitive, and contrary to the values of our immigration law.
- Assure that all child detainees receive educational, health, and psychological services in keeping with all rights accorded under the Flores Settlement.
Supporting organizations involved with the protest and coalition include School of the Americas Watch, Congregation Hakafa, Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America, and others.
Read the full letter here.