Don't Play While most are teenagers who entered the United States alone, dozens of others - often younger - were forcibly separated from their parents at the border by a new Trump administration "zero tolerance" policy.
Last week, for the first time since that policy was announced - and amid increased national interest after a US senator was turned away - federal authorities allowed a small group of reporters to tour the secretive shelter, the largest of its kind in the nation.
A child at the immigrant detention facility in Brownsville, Texas known as Casa Padre. In the former loading docks, children watched the animated movie "Moana," dubbed in Spanish. In what used to be a garage, six young people played basketball. A young person at the cafeteria at the child immigrant detention facility in Brownsville, Texas called Casa Padre.
The organisation now houses immigrant children in three states - approaching half the approximately 11, currently in federal custody - in facilities that are being strained to capacity, according to Sanchez.
The policy of criminally prosecuting all who cross the border illegally is creating a new category of residents at these holding centres, young boys and girls who are grappling with the trauma of being unexpectedly separated from their mothers and fathers. HHS To accommodate them, Sanchez said, Southwest Key is retrofitting some facilities with smaller bathrooms, smaller sinks, smaller everything.
Our goal ultimately is to reunite kids with their families," he said. What we operate are shelters that take care of kids. It's a big, big difference.
The typically younger children who have been separated from their parents make up about 5 per cent of residents at Casa Padre and 10 per cent of all Southwest Key residents, Sanchez estimated. Federal officials have not allowed reporters to visit the facilities that house the youngest children, and it is not clear precisely how many of those children are being held or where. In the two weeks after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the separation policy, on May 7, adults were prosecuted, and they had been accompanied by children, federal officials have said.
Advocates for immigrants worry that shelters across the border, including Casa Padre, do not have a sufficient number of employees or the experience to help so many young children in such difficult circumstances.
Each day, the federal government sends Casa Padre a list of children detained at the border to be placed in the shelter, said Jaime Garcia, program director for Southwest Key. They arrive in white vans, half a dozen at a time. After they are fed, are clothed and get showered, the boys spend up to 72 hours in "intake" as they are vaccinated and checked for tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases and other maladies.
Our goal ultimately is to reunite kids with their families," he said. It is also very important for a person to find the right type of bed frame to be used with this one.
Once they are medically cleared, they join the throng of boys in the shelter, where they stay for an average of 49 days, according to Southwest Key officials. The number of children at Casa Padre is constantly rising - on Wednesday it was They line up in hallways featuring murals of US presidents and inspirational quotes. President Donald Trump's image is the first a visitor encounters, drawn in black and white against the backdrop of an American flag.
A mural of former president Barack Obama contains a quote taken from a speech in which he announced protections for some undocumented immigrants: We were strangers once, too. It used to be four beds to a room.
But as the shelter fills to capacity, a fifth bed - a cot - has been added to each. Atop one boy's pillow lay a teddy bear, a bow around its neck and a smile on its upward turned face. Yellow lines on the ground mark the area boys must line up. In the cafeteria, a mural tells kids to speak quietly, ask before getting up and not share food.
Next to their beds are lists of each boy's belongings: Lights go out at 9pm and come back on at 6am. There are so many children that they attend school in two shifts: They sit in small, numbered classrooms with yellow walls covered in posters of planets.
On Wednesday, through tiny windows, they waved to the reporters outside. The boys are allowed to make two phone calls a week. Southwest Key officials said it sometimes takes days - or weeks - for children to reach their parents. The unusually high number of unaccompanied immigrant children crossing the southern border in recent years has been good for Southwest Key's business.
More than jobs are available at Casa Padre alone, according to Southwest Key's website. Sanchez, a native of Brownsville, founded Southwest Key in with a focus on juvenile justice programs.
In the late s, he said, the organisation won a federal contract to operate a shelter at the border for immigrants, many fleeing El Salvador. Now, two decades later, Southwest Key operates 26 shelters for immigrant youths in Texas, Arizona and California.
The growth has been accompanied by increased compensation for executives. Federal officials declined a request to interview children and employees at Casa Padre. But a Washington Post reporter recently interviewed a teenager who spent about three months in Casa Padre, from February until early May of this year.
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Jairom, 17, had fled an abusive home in Honduras and travelled through Mexico for a month, mostly by train, before he was detained crossing the Rio Grande. His family asked that only his first name be used. Casa Padre wasn't perfect, he said. The two dirt soccer fields behind the big-box store weren't enough space for all the boys who wanted to play. And he said the food was terrible.
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