CARRIZO SPRINGS, Texas – Open only a few days as a temporary shelter for up to 1,300 unaccompanied minors, the facility operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services drew dozens of protesters Wednesday.
Yet many of them said they were spurred on by the disturbing images of overcrowded conditions at U.S. Border Patrol processing centers in the Rio Grande Valley and outside El Paso.
“A lot of people don’t understand, or really could care less, until they start seeing the pictures,” said Jose Coronado Hinojosa, of San Antonio.
The U.S. Army veteran and retired postal worker said he drove down to Carrizo Springs to join the diverse group of people at the protest.
“We’re all here for one purpose, to let the people know that we care,” he said.
Another protester, Samantha Smoot, said she came from Austin.
“I was looking for something to do, some way to speak out,” she said. “It’s a no-brainer. We’re hurting these children. We have to stop separating them from their families.”
Mark Webber, an HHS spokesman who was on site, said that’s what HHS is trying to do at the new temporary shelter.
“We have people in there working 24/7, finding sponsors, vetting those sponsors,” Webber said.
He said although sponsors are usually family or relatives in the U.S., the government must be careful the unaccompanied minors won’t fall into the wrong hands.
“These children can be seen as a profit-making motive for organized crime,” he said.
These drawings show children’s views of their time in detention at the U.S. Southern Border. AAP believes no time in detention is healthy or safe for children. pic.twitter.com/lKb7wZ5GD6— Amer Acad Pediatrics (@AmerAcadPeds) July 3, 2019
He said since the children at the new shelter arrived without family, HHS is required by law to take them in after they’re initially processed by Border Patrol.