There are more than 2,000 migrant children and teens at the Trump administration’s tent city detention camp in Tornillo, Texas. Potential child abusers could be walking among them, since none have been subjected to background checks.
That’s according to a memo the Associated Press received showing that the Trump administration official in charge of the camp personally signed off on waiving FBI background checks for workers at the Tornillo camp. The memo also detailed how the Office of Refugee Resettlement was “sidestepping requirements for child abuse and neglect checks” at the camp.
In a Tuesday report, VICE News also discovered that there were no FBI fingerprint background checks on file for any of the 2,000-plus workers at the Tornillo facility, despite the Department of Health and Human Services mandating them for every employee. The lack of fingerprint checks for employees is a jarring contrast to HHS demanding that all sponsors for the child detainees in the camp must undergo a fingerprint check before being allowed to remove a child from the facility.
The lack of background checks for employees at facilities housing immigrant children is particularly worrisome when looking at the propensity of child abuse at immigrant detention facilities across the country. In July, a six-year-old girl was subjected to sexual abuse at an Arizona facility operated by federal contractor Southwest Key after the girl was separated from her mother in May.
However, sexual abuse of immigrant detainees isn’t limited to just children. Earlier this year, as the Trump administration’s family separation policy came to an end, journalist Emily Kassie discovered in a report from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that there were more than 1,300 sexual abuse cases that allegedly took place at ICE facilities between 2013 and 2017. Guards reportedly told the women they assaulted that they had no choice but to allow the abuse, as fighting them or speaking out would lead to deportation.
The Tornillo tent city isn’t likely to close anytime soon. A contract the AP obtained reportedly shows the facility is due to operate through 2020 and possibly even longer, despite previous plans to close it by New Years Eve of this year.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.