Beto O’Rourke Calls for “Public Pressure” on Trump to Close Child Migrant Camp

More than 2,500 children are being held in Tornillo, Texas.

Nick Wagner/AP

Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) on Saturday urged Americans to pressure the Trump administration to close a child migrant camp run by the Department of Health and Human Services in Tornillo, Texas. More than 2,500 children, most of whom arrived unaccompanied at the border, are currently being kept there—due largely to a controversial Trump administration policy change that has made it more difficult to release the minors to adult sponsors.

O’Rourke called for the type of widespread activism that earlier this year helped force the administration to end its policy of separating migrant families who enter the country illegally. “The public pressure that you brought to bear after Father’s Day that ended the practice of family separation—we need that same pressure again, brought to bear on this administration, to close Tornillo,” O’Rourke said.

Joining O’Rourke were Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), and Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.). Merkley and O’Rourke are both considering running for president in 2020.

The Tornillo camp opened in June amid the Trump administration’s family separation crisis. It was originally supposed to hold only a few hundred minors, but it later expanded. Last month, an HHS inspector general report found that BCFS Health and Human Services, a nonprofit that runs Tornillo, wasn’t conducting required background checks on employees and called the level of mental health care for the children at the camp “especially worrisome.”

Merkley also criticized the facility on Twitter, calling it a “child prison camp.” He claimed officials refused to let the members of Congress speak to the children. (O’Rourke, however, said he was able to speak to some children at the facility. HHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Merkley’s tweet.) “The vast majority of these children have parents or other family members who are ready to sponsor them in the US,” Merkley continued, “but the Trump Administration has deliberately created a bottleneck so that it’s difficult for the children to be released.”

OUR NEW CORRUPTION PROJECT

The more we thought about how MoJo's journalism can have the most impact heading into the 2020 election, the more we realized that so many of today's stories come down to corruption: democracy and the rule of law being undermined by the wealthy and powerful for their own gain.

So we're launching a new Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption. We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We'll publish what we find as a major series in the summer of 2020, including a special issue of our magazine, a dedicated online portal, and video and podcast series so it doesn't get lost in the daily deluge of breaking news.

It's unlike anything we've done before and we've got seed funding to get started, but we're asking readers to help crowdfund this new beat with an additional $500,000 so we can go even bigger. You can read why we're taking this approach and what we want to accomplish in "Corruption Isn't Just Another Scandal. It's the Rot Beneath All of Them," and if you like how it sounds, please help fund it with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate