A Republican congressman from Texas who toured a tent-like shelter for hundreds of minors who had entered the country illegally said Saturday that the facility was a byproduct of a flawed immigration strategy.
U.S. Representative Will Hurd said the shelter near the Tornillo port of entry in far West Texas would house about 360 boys who are 16 and 17.
The teens began arriving Friday, the same day Hurd toured the shelter, he said, noting that they were being moved from other shelters to make way for younger immigrant children taken into custody at the border.
Federal authorities are separating children from their parents as families arrive at the border.
Hurd, however, said the treatment of minors shouldn’t be used as a threatening means to prevent others from entering the U.S.
“This is a symptom of a flawed strategy, and in the land of the free and home of the brave we shouldn’t use kids as deterrence,” said Hurd, who represents a vast border district that includes the port of entry.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced earlier in the week that it intended to open the shelter.
The port is located about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of El Paso, in an area that’s mostly desert and where temperatures routinely approach 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius). The tent-like structures that comprise the shelter have air conditioning.
Federal figures show nearly 2,000 children were separated from adults from April 19 to May 31 as part of President Donald Trump’s immigration crackdown.
The administration’s decision to separate children, combined with the flow of unaccompanied minors attempting to cross the border illegally, has prompted a surge in the number of children in U.S. shelters.
“How do these kids know where their parents are going, and how do the parents know where their children went?” Hurd asked.
A smarter immigration strategy would address root problems such as economic instability and a breakdown in the rule of law in Central America, he said, while noting the need to use advanced technology and manpower to guard the border.
“Building a 30-foot-high wall is a fourth-century solution to a 21st-century problem,” he said, referring to Trump’s call to build a wall along every mile of the border with Mexico.