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The Prospector

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Tornillo tent city finally closed

Gaby Velasquez

This past summer I had the chance to cover one of the events that caught the world’s attention: the Tornillo Tent City.

Last week it was announced that the center closed its doors after releasing the last child in the detention center.

During my time at The Prospector, I’ve had the opportunity to cover different types of events whether it’s news, entertainment or sports, but the situation at Tornillo has been by far the most powerful event I have covered.

In June, the Trump administration built a detention center for immigrant children in Tornillo, which is located 40 miles away from El Paso.

At the beginning of June, close to 300 minors were in detention, and during the last seven months the center held more than 3,000 children and adolescents as part of Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy.

During one of the protests at Tornillo, I had the chance to cross to the Mexican side of the border and stand next to the fence that separates the U.S. and Mexico. From there I could see the tents the American government had built for the thousands of kids separated from their parents.

It seemed unreal, not only to me but to much of the world.

At the protests I could feel the anger of the people as they held posters with the phrase “Free the Children Now,” and regardless of how much I wanted to join the rest of the people I was there to simply do my job.

One of the main protests took place outside the office of the Border Patrol and as all the people were outside yelling and shouting against the detention center, some Border Patrol agents appeared on the roof of one of the buildings with a camera and started to take photos of the people shouting.

The people went crazy, and to be honest, I couldn’t believe it either. They were taking photos of people shouting at them as if they were mocking them. I understand it was not their fault and Border Patrol agents were only following orders from their superiors but having them on a roof taking photos of people simply added more salt to the wound.

Attending press conferences to hear parents of the detained children talk was heartbreaking, as I would see them with ankle monitors and breaking into tears as they spoke about how the Border Patrol agents took their children away.

I remember the case of a woman who said they took away her child while he/she was sleeping, she couldn’t say goodbye, and the next thing the child woke up to was being miles away from his/her mother.

I remember, I would go home everyday and tell my family about what I had covered, what I heard at the conferences and I would show them the footage and photos we took. The look in their eyes showed distress and some tears every now and then.

This was probably one of the ugliest chapters of the Trump administration to date, however, even when I hated the situation at Tornillo and what the government put thousands of children and families through, I have to say that for me as a journalist it was one of the most exciting experiences of my career so far.

Having the chance to be next to other national media outlets in Tornillo and press conferences covering that one story for the university’s student publication was simply sensational.

I not only got to cover the stories, but I also had the opportunity to learn more about immigration. Living in a border area like Juárez and El Paso is crucial to know as much as we can about immigration policies and how they have an impact our community.

The Trump administration has been controversial from the very start and remains so with the partial government shutdown that has now become the longest shutdown in U.S. history.

However, even when it took the administration more than seven months to close the detention center, I’m relieved this small chapter is over.

 I’m glad to know that those children were released after several months of being separated from their families and that there will be no more family separation.

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About the Contributors
Claudia Flores, Editor-in-chief
Gaby Velasquez, Photo editor
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Tornillo tent city finally closed