Lawmakers meet immigrant children inside Tornillo facility

Lawmakers touring Tornillo Facility (Courtesy: KFOX)

Several lawmakers toured the tents at the port of entry in Tornillo on Saturday.

So far, the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed the Tornillo tents are not only housing unaccompanied minors but kids that were separated from their families, as well.

This is the first time lawmakers were given permission to speak to these kids face to face and ask them about their well-being.

Just a few minutes after touring the tents at the Marcelino Serna port of entry, lawmakers described what it was like inside.

“I’m very worried that we're headed from one humanitarian crisis to another," said New Mexico State Sen. Tom Udall.

This comes after President Donald Trump signed an executive order to reverse the policy on the separation of families at the border.

Congressman Beto O'Rourke says he saw kids playing soccer, and that they appeared healthy and well fed; many were smiling.

But Udall said he worries about their mental health.

"We were able to meet kids who had been separated from their parents who arrived here from Guatemala. Their parents have been deported to Guatemala and they are here in this country without their parents," O’Rourke said.

The Department of Health and Human services onfirmed there are 23 kids at Tornillo who have been separated from their families.

The agency also confirmed seven girls ages 13 to 17 arrived Saturday and will be housed at the tents in Tornillo as well

These are not the first tents have been built in Tornillo to house immigrant children.

In 2016, O’Rourke described theTornillo facility as well kept and beneficial for the asylum process.

"They're in a humane facility, kept less than 72 hours before they are taken to a more permanent facility in San Antonio or in some cases released into the community through organizations," O’Rourke said at the time.

But O’Rourke says there is a difference now.

"There are kids who are here that do not know when they will see their parents. That in itself is inhumane."

Lawmakers say they will take what they saw from this tour back to Washington in hopes of coming up with a plan to implement a new policy.

“I have not been part of a meeting and have now spoken to other member of Congress who are part of the meeting where every government who has some part in looking after these children from border patrol to ICE to ORR to other folks at HHS are all present in the same room to answer questions. And it makes me wonder how seriously the federal government and the Trump administration are taking this issue," said Congressman Joaquin Castro.

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