Sobering photos show a Texas detention center where hundreds of immigrant children wait to be reunited with their families

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Administration for Children and Families at the US Department of Health and Human Services

  • Images of a detention center for immigrant children show the conditions in which nearly 1,500 boys are sheltered in Brownsville, Texas.
  • Murals of presidential quotes could be seen inside, some of which feature quotes in both English and Spanish – including one of President Donald Trump saying, “Sometimes losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.”
  • Children are allowed to leave the complex for only two hours each day. Many apparently have spent time inside watching the Disney animated film “Moana” and learning about US history.

Images of a detention center for immigrant children show the conditions in which nearly 1,500 boys are being sheltered in Brownsville, Texas.

A small group of reporters from outlets including MSNBC and The Washington Post were allowed to tour the facility on Wednesday. MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff reported his observations and some pictures of the facility in a lengthy Twitter thread that evening.

The Administration for Children and Families at the US Department of Health and Human Services shared the photos with Business Insider on Thursday.

Casa Padre, which used to be a Walmart, is operated by Southwest Key, a firm that runs more than a dozen shelters in Texas housing unaccompanied immigrant children, the San Antonio Express-News reports.

The organization is contracted by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a division of HHS that manages minors suspected of crossing the US border illegally and oversees their transfer to family custody or foster care.

While some children cross the border illegally without family members, the Trump administration has also implemented what it calls a “zero-tolerance” policy with regard to illegal border crossings by immigrant families. The policy calls for adults to be criminally prosecuted, causing them to lose custody of the children accompanying them.

The policy has been deeply controversial and emotionally fraught.

Miguel Nogueras, an assistant federal public defender, told CNN that roughly 500 children had been separated from their parents since May.

Here are some photos of Casa Padre:


Inside the facility, called Casa Padre, are painted murals of presidents that feature quotes, including one in English and Spanish of Trump saying, “Sometimes losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.”

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Administration for Children and Families at the US Department of Health and Human Services

Nearly every room in the facility houses five children, even though rooms were constructed to house four.

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Administration for Children and Families at the US Department of Health and Human Services

Source: MSNBC


The average amount of time children spend at the facility is 49 days.

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Administration for Children and Families at the US Department of Health and Human Services

Source: The Washington Post


Casa Padre is licensed to house only older children, aged 10 to 17. Shelter staff estimated that 10% of the children currently housed at Casa Padre were separated from their parents at the border — the remaining likely arrived in the US unaccompanied.

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Administration for Children and Families at the US Department of Health and Human Services

Children were allowed to leave the complex for only two hours each day. Apart from that, they remain indoors, spending time on activities like watching the Disney animated film “Moana” and learning about US history.

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Administration for Children and Families at the US Department of Health and Human Services

Source: MSNBC


Their artwork and drawings can be seen scattered throughout the facility, placed atop shelves and hanging above beds.

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Administration for Children and Families at the US Department of Health and Human Services

The children are served food by shelter employees out of the part of the building that used to be a McDonald’s.

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Administration for Children and Families at the US Department of Health and Human Services

Source: The Washington Post


They reportedly eat meals such as chicken, vegetables, fruit cups, burgers, and fries.

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Administration for Children and Families at the US Department of Health and Human Services

Source: The Washington Post


“This place is called a shelter, but effectively these kids are incarcerated,” Soboroff said on MSNBC, pointing to photos he took during a tour supervised by HSS.

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Administration for Children and Families at the US Department of Health and Human Services

Source: MSNBC


Unidentified children can be seen in the photos with barcodes attached to their wrists — here’s one boy having his scanned as he stands in line with a tray of food.

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Administration for Children and Families at the US Department of Health and Human Services

One of the first things a shelter employee reportedly asked the visiting journalists to do was to smile at the kids because they would otherwise feel like animals locked up in a cage.

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Administration for Children and Families at the US Department of Health and Human Services

Source: MSNBC


To accommodate the growing influx of children, Southwest Key is retrofitting some of its facilities with smaller rooms and appliances, such as bathrooms and sinks, the founder and executive Juan Sanchez said.

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Administration for Children and Families at the US Department of Health and Human Services

Source: The Washington Post


“We’re trying to do the best that we can taking care of these children. Our goal ultimately is to reunite kids with their families,” Sanchez said. “We’re not a detention center … What we operate are shelters that take care of kids. It’s a big, big difference.”

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Administration for Children and Families at the US Department of Health and Human Services