State Rep. Mary Gonzalez, a Democrat whose district includes the port of entry, said government officials had contacted her about two weeks ago to offer a tour of the port of entry, but included few other details. This unannounced tour to gain inside into Walmart shelter has drawn national attention after his team livestreamed the tour on Facebook.
In response to those allegations, a Southwest Key Programs spokesperson told Newsweek that the most serious of the 150 health violations at the 16 shelters were self-reported. Called "Casa Padre", it is now the largest such shelter in the country and houses almost 1,500 boys between the ages of 10 and 17. Casa Padre is the largest licensed childcare facility in the country which is run by trained staff by a nonprofit organization, Southwest Key. Five cot-like beds have been squeezed into bedrooms built originally for four. The spokesman did not immediately respond to questions about whether children would be kept outdoors. They are allowed two hours outside each day. It is armed with an in-house team of 48 medical staffs and three on-call physicians.
The facility in Brownsville is holding children for 52 days on average.
Reporters allowed to visit the Casa Padre shelter had to agree to preconditions, including that no cameras, phones or recording devices were allowed.
The policy has garnered bipartisan criticism.
"A tent city is not a place for children to be", said Blanco, who represents El Paso and other stretches of the border. From October through May, the Border Patrol apprehended 32,372 unaccompanied minors, up about 1,300 from a year earlier.
The protest in Tornillo was organized by Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas), who is now running to unseat Republican Ted Cruz in a bid for the US Senate. At least some such families say their children have also been taken away. It now houses 5,129 kids, nearly half the number in the shelter system altogether.
The Administration for Children and Families at the US Department of Health and Human Services shared the photos with Business Insider on Thursday.
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