State Reps visit Border Patrol youth detention center in Nogales
NOGALES, AZ – Three Arizona state representatives visited the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol youth detention center yesterday. The three Democrats, Rep. Rosanna Gabaldón, D-Sahuarita (District 2), Rep. Stefanie Mach, D-Tucson (District 10) and Rep. Demion Clinco, D-Tucson (District 2), were some of the first to see the developing situation at the border.
The three representatives toured the makeshift shelter facility that has been fashioned from a commercial warehouse converted in the 2000s to a detention center. The shelter was set-up in response to the increases in unaccompanied minors being detained as they cross the border in to the United States. The group was told the facility, which was designed to accommodate up to 2,500 adults, was shuttered in 2009 and reopened last week for this new increase in unaccompanied youth cases.
The state lawmakers observed that the detention center was equipped with evaporative cooling, chain link fencing, razor wire and temporary bathrooms. It was clear to the representatives that the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol staff was working with other federal agencies to improve the conditions, with a goal of transferring children to other longer‑term facilities within 72 hours. The representatives said that the installation of temporary shower trailers, washing machines and other bathrooms was ongoing.
“This is an incredibly sad situation but it is clear Customs and Border Patrol is working to improve the situations and conditions of these children,” Gabaldón said. “The State of Arizona takes on a moral responsibility whenever a child enters our state regardless of how they got here.”
Just two weeks ago the Arizona State Legislature passed sweeping reforms creating the Arizona Department of Child Safety. The three elected officials traveled to Nogales concerned by the reports that children within the borders of Arizona were at risk.
“It is upsetting because the situation highlights how fragile the system is,” Clinco said. “This vulnerable population has been on the rise. I don’t understand how this could not have been anticipated by federal agencies.”
The Representatives questioned how this situation was allowed to escalate and how the increases became a crisis, requiring U.S. Customs and Border Patrol to activate the facility.
“The circumstances in Nogales underscore a system in crisis and the urgent need for comprehensive immigration reform,” Mach said.