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In this Dec. 13, 2018 file photo, migrant teens walk in a line through the Tornillo detention camp in Tornillo, Texas. Andres Leighton—AP
In this Dec. 13, 2018 file photo, migrant teens walk in a line through the Tornillo detention camp in Tornillo, Texas. Andres Leighton—AP

The Tornillo Detention Center closes, but the trauma remains

On Tuesday, officials from the Immigrant Detention Center in Tornillo, Texas, said the last children had left the controversial refugee camp. However,…

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Last weekend, and in the midst of a critical government shutdown, the Trump Administration announced the closure of one of the most controversial detention centers for immigrants since the implementation of the government's zero-tolerance policy.

Known as the "tent city" of Tornillo (Texas), the immigrant youth detention center became the symbol of the government's cruelty against undocumented immigration, stoking protests, vigils and unleashing legislative proposals by Democrats in Congress.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) stated that the improvised youth prison - that held up to 2,800 immigrant teenagers even when its capacity was 360 - would be dismantled, and the children would be redistributed between guardians and other detention centers, according to Talking Points Memo.

After the Donald Trump government adopted the family separation strategy, thousands of undocumented children were prosecuted as "unaccompanied minors" and placed in the custody of the DHHS, who resorted to private contractors to house thousands of children in small spaces.

As the publication continues, Tornillo came to lodge "more people than in all but one of the 204 federal prisons in the nation," and the camp was established near the US-Mexico border "with rows of beige tents and golf carts that transported employees."

Several investigations exposed the dubious conditions in which the young people found themselves, including little health care and the lack of background checks when hiring personnel.

Thanks to pressure from the local community members and activist groups protesting against the Trump government's intentions to expand the center's capabilities, the BCFS (the company that administers the facilities) was forced to finally close its doors, The Guardian reported.

"The children were coming in but never leaving. We, as an organization, finally drew the line, "said BCFS Executive Director Kevin Dinnin. "You can’t keep taking children in and not releasing them."

For Fernando García, executive director of Border Network for Human Rights, Tornillo "was a symbol of this administration’s deep inhumanity," he told the publication, claiming that "vulnerability and trauma" were the day to day in the facilities.

"They’ve been through hell and you can see it in their eyes and you can hear it in their voices," he added.

Specialists denounced last year the mistreatment to which the children were subjected during the family separation campaign and their consequent detention.

"It's a clear case of child abuse," said Thomas Plante, a professor of psychology at Santa Clara University at ABC7. "There is no other way to describe it."

Similarly, the American Psychological Association (APA) issued a letter to the Trump government to "express our deep concern and strong opposition" to the policies of separation and detention.

Even when the tents are dismantled and the center's physical structure disappears, the experience and trauma to which the thousands of children were subjected will not be blotted out so easily.

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