Children play outside detention center

CNN's Gary Tuchman travels to Tornillo, Texas, where the Trump administration has temporarily housed unaccompanied immigrant children, as the agency seeks more capacity amid the increasing number of families separated at the border because of the administration's practices.

Posted: Jun 17, 2018 2:42 PM
Updated: Jun 17, 2018 2:42 PM

Texas Rep. Will Hurd said Saturday that the use of detained children, such as those being separated from their parents at the southern border, as a deterrent policy is "unacceptable."

"We should not be using kids as a deterrent policy," Hurd told "CNN Newsroom" anchor Ana Cabrera. "This is something I think is actually unacceptable, and is something that as Americans we shouldn't be doing."

The Republican lawmaker visited the Trump administration's temporary shelter for unaccompanied immigrant children in Tornillo, Texas, which is in his border district, on Friday night.

"This really isn't a Republican or Democratic issue," he said. "This is an issue about how should you treat children."

Hurd also called for the administration to change the policy.

"This is clearly something that the administration can change. They don't need legislation to change it," Hurd told Cabrera. "This is a Department of Justice policy, and this is something that's being enacted by (the Department of Health and Human Services)."

"If we have to separate kids from their parents, then we probably need to rethink our strategy on how we're securing our country," he added.

Touring Tornillo

Earlier Saturday, Hurd said in a separate interview with CNN that the Trump administration has not provided an adequate explanation to him about how it is keeping track of undocumented immigrant parents and children being separated at the southern border and how to reunite them.

"That's nuts," he said.

The shelter primarily houses teenage boys who came to the US alone, and he said they are being treated well. But the very need to put them in a temporary shelter was a problem, he added.

"It's an indication that the policy is flawed," Hurd added. "We're the United States of America. We shouldn't be using kids as a deterrent for border security."

Reunification procedures put the onus on the parents to use Department of Health and Human Services hotlines to track down their kids, according to information provided by the departments of Homeland Security, Justice, and Health and Human Services that CNN has reviewed.

Advocates who work with immigrants say it is extremely difficult for parents to track their children under the procedures, adding that adults in detention cannot receive phone calls, making it hard to connect with their kids in Health and Human Services facilities.

Based on information available to him as a member of the Homeland Security Committee, Hurd said his understanding is the Tornillo facility has the capacity to expand to up to 4,000 beds. He also said that in addition to the 2,000 children separated from their parents from mid-April through May, at least 200 more kids were separated from adults at the border in the last two weeks.

The Republican lawmaker added that the conditions for detainees at the temporary shelter in Tornillo were good.

"This facility is run by emergency management professionals that, you name the crisis, they've been there," Hurd said. The kids "get three square meals a day and two snacks" and that legal representatives and case workers are on the premises, he added.

But Hurd said he has grave concerns after his visit about the value and prudence of the policy that is resulting in more family separations, and he questioned why the government would want to separate children and put more strain on an already taxed system for undocumented immigrant kids.

There are alternatives to separating families that still make sure those families show up for immigration court proceedings, he added, citing a DHS family case management program that the Trump administration ended that was more than 90% effective at having families meet their court requirements.

"Based on the visit and seeing the volume, we need to stop separating kids from their families, and we need to make sure we're putting a little bit more focus on addressing the root causes in Central America," Hurd told CNN. "We need to be exploring to alternatives to detention."

Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson echoed the need for the US to focus on the conditions causing the illegal migration, calling the current policy "unsustainable."

"You cannot flood the federal criminal justice system with thousands of migrants per month into the system, extract guilty pleas from them, sentence them, somehow have some supervised release. The system cannot sustain that longer-term," the Obama-era official told CNN's Cabrera.

"This is obviously a deliberate effort short-term to try to send a shock to the system and drive the numbers down," Johnson said. "History teaches that longer-term, the trends are going to revert to where they were before -- 40, 50,000 per month -- as long as we fail to address the underlying push factors in Central America."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 484594

Reported Deaths: 6551
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1005381584
Ramsey43006800
Dakota36180389
Anoka33231384
Washington22027255
Stearns18714201
St. Louis14769262
Scott13241107
Wright12500115
Olmsted1177288
Sherburne870772
Carver767840
Clay689987
Rice669091
Blue Earth592635
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Crow Wing519281
Chisago497545
Otter Tail481770
Benton445790
Winona417449
Mower403331
Douglas392368
Nobles386647
Goodhue385168
Polk342662
McLeod338849
Beltrami337251
Morrison324147
Lyon312944
Itasca312546
Becker310741
Isanti305154
Carlton300149
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Pine282016
Freeborn280123
Nicollet257041
Todd247330
Brown243837
Le Sueur234820
Mille Lacs226847
Cass219324
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Meeker206934
Martin189028
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Aitkin118733
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Murray9438
Jackson93410
Swift88018
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Marshall77815
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Lake73618
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Lincoln5062
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Unassigned48468
Norman4768
Mahnomen4417
Kittson40821
Red Lake3625
Traverse3035
Lake of the Woods2191
Cook1180

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 361699

Reported Deaths: 5413
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58040549
Linn20634312
Scott18281207
Black Hawk16227290
Woodbury14937211
Johnson1380573
Dubuque13529194
Dallas1132990
Pottawattamie10765143
Story1019645
Warren553474
Clinton542784
Cerro Gordo533081
Webster518187
Marshall495272
Sioux493769
Buena Vista472936
Des Moines457561
Muscatine450891
Wapello4322108
Jasper416366
Plymouth394477
Lee374952
Marion358369
Jones294454
Henry293137
Carroll285448
Bremer279754
Crawford273635
Boone259130
Washington253747
Benton252454
Mahaska224046
Jackson221238
Dickinson217139
Tama213065
Kossuth208154
Clay193125
Hamilton191842
Delaware189239
Winneshiek188427
Buchanan184529
Fayette184435
Page182619
Hardin180839
Wright179631
Harrison179269
Cedar177323
Clayton168053
Butler166331
Mills162820
Floyd162240
Madison154218
Poweshiek153930
Cherokee153535
Hancock146829
Lyon145541
Allamakee145246
Iowa144323
Grundy139030
Appanoose138947
Jefferson138432
Winnebago137930
Calhoun133411
Cass133351
Mitchell130840
Louisa128441
Union126231
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Franklin118419
Humboldt117425
Guthrie116228
Palo Alto104921
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Howard102721
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Unassigned9870
Keokuk97829
Monroe93028
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Ida91032
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Davis82623
Monona81527
Greene76910
Lucas73421
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