In recent years, tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors have tried to make their way into the U.S. from the southern border only to be apprehended by the U.S. Border Patrol and immigrations officials.
Now, Lackland Air Force Base in south Texas is being pressed into action as a makeshift holding center for as many as 1,000 unaccompanied undocumented children.
Jennifer Podkul works with the Women’s Refugee Commission on issues associated with unaccompanied minors in detention. In a conversation with Texas Standard host David Brown, Podkul compared detention conditions to a refugee camp.
“These are people who are being forced from their homes like refugees in other parts of the world, and they’re having to come to the U.S. seeking protection,” she says.
Podkul was at Lackland in the summer of 2012 when it was first used as an emergency shelter for children. “It looked like … if there was a hurricane … a Red Cross refugee holding area,” she says. “There were kids sleeping on … emergency cots, they had portable hand washing stations. It was just a makeshift situation.”
“They converted one of the buildings on the Air Force base to the holding area for the kids,” Podkul continues. “So they had rooms for sleeping, a little recreation areas, little classroom type spaces and a cafeteria down on the first floor. Then they put fencing around it so nobody could see in to protect the children.”