Tornillo Child Prison Camp

Artivist work on a banner depicting the realities of the Tornillo detention facility

On Tuesday January 8, 2019 Trump addressed the nation in regards to the government shut-down. As expected, Trump addressed the “crisis” at the border as a way to push for the wall. A crisis that the government shut down and years of U.S. intervention has created.

While it is true that we described El Paso as a city in the midst of a humanitarian crisis it was solely due to the fact that I.C.E has released hundreds of people from detention - people who will apply for asylum because they came from war torn countries, such as Guatemala - where the U.S. funded a 36-year civil war that resulted in the genocide of thousands of indigenous people.

Indigenous people, such as Jakelin Caal, Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez who fled Guatemala only to be murdered at the U.S. border by the hands of Border Patrol.

What we saw in El Paso was a continued slow genocide of Latin American people and U.S. policy intervention, such as zero tolerance - that has resulted in the overcrowding of detention facilities and family separation.

After being released from detention, hundreds of asylum seekers were dropped off in El Paso; at parks, bus stations, anywhere honestly - at the hands of the US government. They were left sick, children as young as 2 months who had the flu yet had not been given medical attention. They were left without coats while snow fell and weather dropped under 20 degrees. They were left with no money and no means to communicate with family in a city they were unfamiliar with.

All of the asylum seekers dropped off in this manner had family in other cities and states to whom which they were allowed to reunify with. Yet instead of opening the doors of detention facilities and helping families to reunify our government bused people to El Paso. Please understand many of the children, men and women were not even held in detention in El Paso, they were driven hundreds of miles to be dropped off near the border.

The “crisis” at the border has been created by the US government. It will not be resolved by holding the working class US people hostage of paychecks, food stamps, and housing which have been directly impacted by the government shut down, in order to build a wall.

It is time to reimagine how our immigration laws are created and upheld. Refugees and asylum seekers deserve better than the unjustified fear of their existence.

Picture of the border wall separating the U.S. in Mexico located in Tornillo

December 30, 2018:

Today we are leaving Tornillo. For continued updates on the occupation and what is going on in El Paso follow Tornillo: The Occupation on facebook.

Before heading out we walked around the Tornillo Detention Camp, it’s a large camp but we made our way to the side where the kids play soccer. They were out when we approached, when the workers saw us on the other side of the fence they hurriedly put them into a single file line to walk them to a different rec center, they are not allowed to have contact with anyone outside of the facility.

Some waved as we yelled “No están solos, estamos con ustedes.” The workers told them not to wave, but like beautiful rebellious children as soon as the workers turned around they waved again.

This is what the United States looks like. Walls, barbed wire, fences, man made borders to separate families. To keep families stuck, disconnected and broken.

NPR reported that Tornillo would be closing down yet while we were walking around the perimeter we saw workers moving in more equipment. While we hope this is because they truly plan to close Tornillo down, we wonder what will happen of the children?

The reality is, the separation and terror of these families will not end anytime soon.

Empty soccer fields in Tornillo

December 29, 2018:

Last night ambulances rushed into the child detention camp in Tornillo, TX. We are unsure of the outcome but we know that the detainment of children in this manner is detrimental to their physical, mental and emotional well-being.

This form of imprisonment is killing families. Many people are unaware of the extent of these detention centers, they were told the centers were going to close, instead they grew by the thousands.

Tornillo now holds 3,000+ children. Children who are told not to look out of the plastic that lines the barbed wire. Children who cannot be high-fived, even fist pumped at the command of ice.

What is happening to these families is inhumane. It is a slow genocide.

December 28, 2018:

We spent hours today cooking along side Mama Cat and MoDreamers to help serve 82 folks who were dropped off by ice.

We continue to hear stories of the overcrowding at the detention centers. A father told us about how he held his child throughout the night on his chest because there was not even enough room to set him down.

Many children came with fevers, and flu symptoms. Local organizers brought in medics to help assess their health.

Several people came with ankle monitors but were not informed as to why they were forced to wear them.

It’s a constant stream of lack of communication. It’s a constant mistreatment of people who are deserving of freedom, safety and security.

Preparing food for shelters

Hundreds at local bus stations in El Paso

December 28, 2018:

We are at the bus station in El Paso, helping to get tickets and translate the boarding procedures. Some people will ride the bus for the next two days to their final location.

Local organizers have been working for days, with little sleep to help arrange bus tickets for families who have already applied for asylum and been given A numbers, but who have been dropped off by ice with no explanation of what was going on, no money and no food. Today 100 more are expected to be dropped off.

Many come through and are sick from the extreme over crowding of the detention centers. For many their second language is Spanish so even with Spanish interpreters we struggle. Many have gone long periods of time without calling home to family - we lend a phone, we lend an ear and we wish them good luck on their journey.

December 27, 2018:

Christmas in Tornillo tree lighting ceremony. Have you seen the video of the border patrol destroying water jugs left in the desert?

If not see video here:

There have been many reports of border patrol destroying water jugs, and according to No More Deaths between 2012-2015 over 3,000 jugs of water had been destroyed by border patrol.

Miguel, a 37-year-old man from Sinaloa, recounts his experience when trying to cross the US–Mexico border. Miguel had been walking for 8 days when he came across vandalized water jugs:

“Yes. I saw the water bottles stabbed. They break the bottles so you can’t even use them to fill up in the tanks. I needed water, some of the other people in the group needed water, but we found them destroyed. [I felt] helplessness, rage. They [the US Border Patrol] must hate us. It’s their work to capture us, but we are humans. And they don’t treat us like humans. It’s hate is what it is. They break the bottles out of hate” (No More Deaths - Part 2 Interference with Humanitarian Aid).

Last night the encampment at Tornillo constructed a Christmas tree out of destroyed water jugs that had been found. It was a symbolic gesture bringing to light not only the dehumanizing extremes that border patrol will take, but the issue over water that thousands of indigenous and communities of color fight daily from Flint, MI, to the MexiCali Resistance.

The top of the tree was adorned by a tree topper with photos of Jakelin Amei Rosmery Caal Maquin, 7 year old Guatemalan child who recently died in border patrol custody as well as Felipe Alonzo-Gomez, 8 year old Guatemalan child was also died in border patrol custody this month.

December 27, 2018:

The occupation in tornillo is well underway. Hundreds have shown up to bring attention to the inhumane hostage situation of thousands of children in this detention center.

Banners line the fence at the port entry, flowers are beginning to be placed along the barbed wire so the children can see their beautiful colors and know they are not alone.