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It Used to Be a Walmart. Now It's Holding Immigrant Teens

Reporters tour Texas facility as immigration debate stays in spotlight
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 15, 2018 3:36 PM CDT
It Used to Be a Walmart. Now It's Holding Immigrant Teens
A teen at the Casa Padre detention facility in Brownsville, Texas, gets a meal.   (US Department of Health and Human Services)

(Newser) – Lawmakers from both parties have been criticizing the Justice Department's tough new policy that requires immigrant children to be separated from their parents at the border. On Friday, President Trump joined the critics, with a familiar caveat. "I hate it," he said. "I hate to see separation of parents and children." But he suggested the administration had no choice, asserting that "the Democrats forced that law upon our nation." A host of outlets, including BuzzFeed, CNN, and the Washington Post say Trump is incorrect about that. Under the administration's new zero-tolerance policy, every adult caught crossing the border illegally is being prosecuted, and the children are being separated while their parents await their legal cases to play out. Related coverage:

  • Compromise in peril: House Republicans were poised to float two immigration plans, the more moderate of which would hit many of Trump's wishes (including $25 billion for border security) while ending the separation policy, reports the Hill. (See below for more on the latter.) However, Trump may have torpedoed its chances Friday when he told Fox that he wouldn't sign it, reports the AP, which now sees "eleventh-hour confusion" on the issue.

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  • Casa Padre: This week, the government gave media outlets a tour of a former Walmart in Brownsville, Texas, converted into a detention facility for about 1,500 male immigrant boys and teens. It's now called Casa Padre. "During the carefully scripted visit, the boys were shooting baskets, kicking soccer balls, playing video games, watching a movie, sitting in classrooms where they were taught about the US government, learning Tai Chi and chowing down on a meal of chicken and mixed vegetables," according to NPR. The facility has been described as everything from a prison to a summer camp, notes Quartz, rounding up examples.
  • The numbers: Casa Padre is just one of several such facilities around the country, where about 10,000 youths were being held. Most were detained alone at the border. So how many kids have been separated from their parents under the new policy? The AP reports that 1,999 minors were separated from 1,940 adults from April 19 through May 31. No breakdowns by age were available in the DHS stats.
  • That Bible verse: Jeff Sessions made headlines by quoting the Bible as justification for the policy. "I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes. Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves," he said. "Consistent and fair application of the law is in itself a good and moral thing, and that protects the weak and protects the lawful." Critics point out that the same verse has previously been used to justify slavery, notes Slate. Stephen Colbert also took Sessions to task for that. See it here.
  • Very specific donation: Celeb couple Chrissy Tiegen and John Legend donated $72,000 to the ACLU on Thursday to protest the treatment of immigrant families, reports ABC News. Why that amount? Thursday was Trump's 72nd birthday.
  • House GOP bill: As noted above, the House GOP plan would end the separation policy, but critics say the resulting system would still allow the feds to hold entire families until the parents' legal cases are resolved, that is, "indefinitely," according to this explainer at Vox. “It’s going to result in kids sitting in detention for a far longer time and being sent back to countries where their lives are at risk,” Emily Butera, senior policy adviser for the Women’s Refugee Commission, tells USA Today.
(Read more immigration stories.)

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