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Reporter Compares Children’s Immigration Detention Center to Jail

The Casa Padre detention facility in Brownsville, Texas. (Screenshot / YouTube)

Reporters from multiple news organizations got their first glimpse of life inside a detention center for migrant children in Texas, and what they saw prompted one reporter to compare the facility to jail.

“Effectively, these kids are incarcerated,” MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff said Wednesday in an interview on “All In With Chris Hayes.”

Soboroff was reporting on his visit to Casa Padre, an immigration detention center in Brownsville, Texas, for boys ages 10 to 17. The center has seen a recent influx of residents as the Trump administration steps up its policy of separating undocumented parents and children, including those attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

The facility, which used to be a Walmart store, houses approximately 1,500 boys. It is run by Southwest Key Programs, a social services nonprofit under contract with the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Newsweek previously reported that Casa Padre was one of 16 shelters run by Southwest that was cited by Texas inspectors for health violations. Newsweek said, “At that specific Casa Padre shelter, a child who tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease was not given medical treatment for two weeks.”

In response to those allegations, a Southwest Key Programs spokesperson told Newsweek that the most serious of the 150 health violations at the 16 shelters were self-reported. “After any reported medical error, Southwest Key investigates the situation as well as the relevant staff member(s) to determine appropriate next steps,” the spokesperson said, adding, “Staff are subject to discipline, up to and including employment termination, as a result of these such instances.”

Soboroff noted that children in the detention center are supposed to sleep four to a room but that since the increase in admissions, most rooms house five.

There are no windows, and the children get only two hours a day outside the facility. Lights go out at 9 p.m., and the children eat on rotating shifts. As Soboroff wrote on Twitter, although “there are no cells and no cages, and they get to go to classes about American history and watch Moana … they’re in custody.”

They also continually see a mural of President Donald Trump and the words, “Sometimes losing a battle you find a new way to win the war,” a quote from his book “The Art of the Deal.”

Casa Padre is the same facility that Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat, unsuccessfully attempted to visit June 3. As MSNBC commentator Chris Hayes pointed out on Twitter, its existence predates Trump, though the practice of family separations has increased its population and possibly made conditions worse.

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