Record numbers of immigrant children are being held in detention facilities around
the United States, under conditions that are harmful to their development and well-
being. The largest such facility is a complex of tents located on a military base in
Tornillo, Texas. The Tornillo facility was originally designed to hold 400 children for
a few weeks in June, but is now projected to hold at least 3,800 children on a near-
indefinite basis. The average length of stay at Tornillo is reported to be double or
triple that permitted under the Flores settlement, which allows the government to
detain immigrant children for no longer than 20 days at a time.
The population of children held at Tornillo is greater than that in the largest prison
operated by the federal government. The Tornillo facility is unregulated by child
welfare agencies, and the staff at Tornillo has been made specially exempt from FBI
fingerprint background checks, increasing the risk that someone with a criminal
history could have direct access to these children. Schooling is not required at the
Tornillo facility. The children there endure frequent dust storms and triple-degree
temperatures. While federal policy requires migrant youth centers to have one
mental health clinician for every 12 children, there is reportedly only one clinician
for every 100 children at Tornillo.
Experts agree: incarceration of children significantly hurts their ability to learn,
even after the incarceration has ended.
Teachers Against Child Detention (TACD) was formed by a group of teachers led
by Mandy Manning, the 2018 National Teacher of the Year. Teachers are mandatory
reporters, required under U.S. law to report suspected child abuse to responsible
authorities. TACD calls on all educators to act as mandatory reporters and speak out
against the atrocities being perpetrated against the children in detention at Tornillo.
TACD is an alliance between teachers, immigrant rights organizations and other
citizens concerned about the welfare of children at Tornillo. TACD demands that its
teachers be given access to the children at Tornillo, to offer them classroom
instruction, and to deliver them a message of hope and love. TACD also demands
that these children be released from incarceration. They are being punished not out
of a sense of what is just and right, but to promote a political agenda that ignores
their rights and potential as human beings.
All children deserve to be in school.
All children deserve to be free.
We demand the release of our children.