WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the Trump administration considers building a tent city for immigrant children separated from their parents, one Catholic group warned that the plan would cause additional trauma to those who are already vulnerable.
“Detaining children in any kind of setting is never a good idea for the children. It leads to all sorts of medical, emotional and developmental repercussions, even when they are detained with their parents,” said Patricia Zapor, communications director for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC).
“Detaining children away from their parents is an even worse idea, and in tents, in the harsh climate of Texas – that’s a recipe for disaster,” Zapor told CNA.
The tent city plan, reported by McClatchyDC, comes amid a recent spike in the number of unaccompanied children at the border, due to the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy which has enforced the separation of migrant children from their parents who have been detained by officials.
With the enforcement of the new policy, the number of unaccompanied minors at the border has grown by 20 percent, and it is estimated that upwards of 10,000 migrant children are currently being held in over 100 various shelters, which are at 95 percent capacity, according to a McClatchyDC report.
Zapor criticized the separation policy and tent city, saying the government would not have “thousands of children in custody for whom they must find shelter if the administration was not unnecessarily separating them from their parents.”
“Many of these families falling under this policy are seeking asylum in the United States, protection from dangers in their own countries. They should be welcomed, allowed to file their asylum claims and given a chance to normalize their lives while their cases proceed,” Zapor said.
“Separating parents from their children and keeping everyone in detention is not necessary, is harmful to both kids and adults and is not who we are as a country,” she continued.
The president of the U.S. bishops conference has also decried the separation policy, calling it “immoral” and saying that families should be allowed to stay together.
The plans for the tent city are still being fleshed out, but the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be scoping out potential properties in Texas for development over the next month.
HHS has reportedly been considering military bases for the tent city and is eyeing the Fort Bliss Army base near El Paso, Texas as one of the prospective locations. Other bases, including Dyess in Abilene, Goodfellow in San Angelo, and Little Rock in Arkansas are also reportedly in the running for the tent city development, which is expected to hold between 1,000-5,000 children.
“As Christians, we are called to care for those in need, including those who seek protection in a new land,” Zapor said.
“It is abhorrent that our government instead chooses to cause additional emotional trauma to vulnerable people.”