Lawmakers touring tents in Tornillo say center expected to stay open 34 more days

Lawmakers tour tents in Tornillo (Source: KFOX14)

A group of state representatives from across Texas returned to Tornillo on Friday. They tell KFOX14 the center is expected to stay open another 34 days, until Sept.13, and add 5,000 employees to the staff.

Rep. Mary Gonzalez and other lawmakers toured the tent city where undocumented children are staying.

The state reps are part of the bipartisan Mexican American Legislative Caucus.

"We're here for accountability. We're here so that these kids understand there are people outside of the barbed wire fighting for their due process and civil rights," Rep. Cesar Blanco said.

They're calling on the Trump administration to reunite approximately 570 children who, in their words, remain orphaned in government shelters.

The Tornillo center is currently housing roughly 170 boys, placing approximately 20 kids per tent, according to state reps.

"The slow movement of the federal government means we are spending as taxpayers $400,000 a day, $400,000 a day, just to push forward a political agenda for kids who have places they can be with families," Rep. Mary Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez says all the children in the facility have sponsor relatives they can stay with. However, background checks on the sponsor and entire household, are slowing down the release of teens, according to Gonzalez.

"Because of the changes in federal policy, when a kid would normally stay for 20 days, now they're staying for even longer. Now the average is being increased to 56 days with that number increasing," Gonzalez said.

The shelter is housing boys ages 14 to 17 years old. Girls are no longer being housed at the facility. All the boys in the center are minors who arrived to the border unaccompanied and were not separated from parents at the border under the zero tolerance policy. The majority of the children are from Central American countries.

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