U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced Sunday (March 31) that it would move Central American immigrants from a makeshift holding area surrounded by razor wire under a bridge in El Paso, Texas, to a “safer, more accommodating location,” as previously reported by Colorlines. As it turns out, that “safer” location is actually a parking lot filled with tents, according to Vice News.
Vice followed a bus taking migrants from the area under the bridge to the new space. They discovered CBP had set up “three large beige tents outside El Paso station,” an area that’s typically used to process large groups of migrants. The news outlet interviewed several people who were relocated and eventually released. They confirmed that they had been held in the tented parking lot and that conditions were worse than being under the bridge.
A man named Gustavo told Vice, “When they took me out of the bridge, I thanked God because I thought I’d be going to a better place.” However, his hopes were quickly dashed when he saw his new shelter. “I get to this other jail, and they throw us in those tents. And then more and more and more people kept arriving, until it turned into chaos,” he said. After a few days in the tents, Gustavo was released to a makeshift shelter provided by an El Paso church.
Gustavo, who declined to provide his last name to Vice, believes there were at least 1,500 people crammed into the three tents. “The kids slept on top of our feet—we were standing up, because we didn’t fit. You couldn’t see even one part of the floor. Just shoes and more shoes.”
Despite the chilly weather, space was so limited that officials required all migrants, including the children, to “remove any additional layers of clothing and hand them over to the officers.” Gustavo told Vice they took blankets from 1-year-olds “and they threw them in the garbage. They took away their hats. The kids trembled.”
CBP so far hasn’t issued a statement regarding the tents. According to Vice, it simply reissued the earlier statement about moving people from under the Paso Del Norte International Bridge, which connects El Paso, Texas, with Juarez, Mexico.