A Texas tent city constructed last week to shelter migrant children became a protest site Sunday as crowds marched to oppose the separation of immigrant families at the border.
More than 200 children are being housed in the makeshift tent structure built in Tornillo, Tex., according to Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.), who organized Sunday’s protest.
Protesters braved the Texas heat, carrying signs featuring slogans like, “Don’t use children to get your wall,” “Fight ignorance, not immigrants,” and “This is how the Holocaust started,” the El Paso Times reported.
“We’re wanting to make sure that everyone in this country knows what is happening here, in their name, in Tornillo, where kids have traveled 2,000 miles, some alone, some with their parents, are being held in detention camps, tent cities that have just been constructed over the course of this last week,” O’Rourke said.
The Trump administration chose Tornillo last week as the site of its first temporary shelter for children crossing the border. It has the capacity to house 360 children but plans to expand.
The use of temporary shelters plays into the “zero tolerance” policy, unveiled last month, which aims to prosecute more people entering the country illegally ― even if that means separating children from their parents. Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their parents by U.S. authorities between April 19 and May 31, a Department of Homeland Security official said on Friday.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, meanwhile, denied the existence of any family separation policy.
“This misreporting by members, press and advocacy groups must stop,” Nielsen tweeted Sunday. “It is irresponsible and unproductive. As I have said many times before, if you are seeking asylum for your family, there is no reason to break the law and illegally cross between ports of entry.”
A number of prominent Republicans came out against the separation of families in recent days. Former First Lady Laura Bush called it “cruel” and “immoral.” First Lady Melania Trump said she “hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform.” House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) also voiced his disagreement, suggesting Congress push legislation to limit family separation.