TORNILLO, TEXAS (HawaiiNewsNow) - U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, went to the Texas-Mexico border over the weekend to tour immigrant detention camps, one of which she called a “tent city” and “totally unacceptable.”
“It starts with the entire Trump administration’s attitude toward immigrants or people who are coming across the border seeking asylum,” Hirono said.
In an interview on Hawaii News Now Sunrise, Hirono noted one detention camp specifically: the one in Tornillo, which was was erected six months ago to house immigrant children who were separated from their parents under President Donald Trump’s zero tolerance policy. But that facility was only supposed to last for 30 days.
“That was about in June, and here we are in December,” Hirono said.
And since then, the population at the detention center has slowly grown to about 2,700 children, Hirono added.
“Most of them already have sponsors, but this is taking a long time to have the children and the sponsors come together. Why? Yet another Trump administration policy that says all of the sponsors for these children have to be fingerprinted including everybody in the extended family,” Hirono said, adding that the process creates a “chilling effect” because many of the sponsors are undocumented and can be deported.
On Saturday, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, led Hirono — as well as Democrats U.S. Rep. Judy Chu, of California, and U.S. Sens. Tina Smith, of Minnesota, and Jeff Merkley, of Oregon — to tour the facility and try to find out what’s next for the children there.
But Hirono said the group was told they could not speak with the children because it would interrupt their schedules.
“It’s a facility that, regardless of where their physical needs are being met, we know from mental health experts that you keep children in this kind of a situation, the more emotional and mental health problems that they will have and often for the rest of their lives,” Hirono said.
Hirono said family separation among immigrants is “a very damaging policy to follow,” but that President Trump really wants to stop immigration to the U.S. from certain countries.
“This is an administration that refuses to take responsibility for what they’re doing,” Hirono said. “They’re always pointing their fingers at other people. This is one of the reasons that there are those of us who wanted to see for ourselves what’s going on and tell the public the truth.”