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Gadi Schwartz @GadiNBC
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We’re about to head into another detention shelter for immigrant children separated from families. This one much different from the former Walmart @jacobsoboroff showed us earlier this week. No cameras allowed in but our reports coming up @MSNBC @NBCNightlyNews @allinwithchris
So, the first thing children who are brought here are told is that this is not a detention center. — Even though they are not allowed to leave. Don’t know when they will be freed. And get 2 phone calls to family a week. Those calls can’t be longer than 10 minutes.
The first thing we were shown is this bell that is supposed to give kids hope... but seemed really haunting. we weren’t allowed to take pictures. But here’s what it said in Spanish.
It means when a minor finally achieves their dream of reuniting with their family or sponsor, they’ll ring this bell as they leave. This will be the sound of hope.
So one of the staff members giving the tour rang the bell... there was this strange second of silence... then all over the facility immigrant kids stopped what they were doing and started clapping.
The idea, that one day they’ll leave free and get to ring the bell. (Unless they turn 18, at which point they are turned back over to ICE to be detained and prosecuted as an adult) in those cases, the bell isn’t rung.
At this facility, there are 63 kids, all males and most from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. We saw them playing soccer in a caged field with nets. We were told the fencing was because soccer balls kept getting kicked off property.
The kids wake up at 630 am. Breakfast at 7am. Schooling until 2pm. Clinical work until 3pm Vocational, large muscle and recreational leisure structured by different blocks afterward. They have movie nights, special events, can play soccer...
The staff says they have even hosted a prom where these immigrant children —- who are being held in a fenced and locked facility—- are allowed to dress up and socialize with girls who are also in the custody of HHS.
And it’s not just parents being separated from their children... if a family has siblings that are brother and sister, they are seperated as well. At this facility in El Cajon, brothers and sisters are allowed to see each other once a week.
At this facility- staff says the average minor stays 47 days... but they have had a stay as long as +260 days. The HHS average stay is 56. Right now there are 11,351 minors being held in over 100 shelters like this across the country.
The communication director for @southwestkey - the organization that runs the facility just came out, taking issue with the word “detention” and telling us not to show the sign. I asked her what we should we call it given that minors here are not allowed to leave.
She said it was a shelter & kids didn’t want to leave cause they were safe. I asked her how we could know if we weren’t allowed to speak to kids. She said all we would do is exploit them. I asked about fences & she literally said they were to protect children from people like us.
That being said. A couple things. The majority of the clinical/instructional staff at @SouthwestKey seem to be earnest people who are trying to help, teach and protect children. A clinician said their number one priority was to reunite kids with their family and I believed him.
The other thing the comm director took offense to was that we weren’t putting enough focus on the fact that the majority of the kids here crossed the border without parents and are technically “unaccompanied minors” and that’s a valid point.
So far only about 10% at this shelter have been seperated from family by the govt under the administrations new zero tolerance policy. Nationwide out of the 11,351 kids who are being detained or “sheltered” or whatever they call it... about 2000 r family separations
Those numbers are from the last 6 weeks. About 1600 more beds are have just been ordered and tent facilities like the one @jacobsoboroff reported on are being are being planned in anticipation for more detentions.... and more “clients” as they are referred to as some staff.
For the last couple hours... we’ve seen locals coming by... incredulous after seeing what was happening so close to their homes on the news. Now... this sign with the words, “Families belong together.
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