What Do Migrant Kids See When They Visualize 'Home'?
A new exhibit in El Paso showcases works of art created by children detained in a massive border encampment of migrants in Tornillo, Texas.
Last year, the U.S. government built a massive detention facility to hold migrant children in a remote area around Tornillo, Texas, a town near the U.S.-Mexico border. Over its seven-month lifespan, the tent city at Tornillo housed about 6,000 undocumented teenagers, largely from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. At the the beginning, Tornillo detainees even included children the Trump administration had separated from their parents. As I wrote earlier this year, this temporary encampment served as a kind of physical expression of President Donald Trump’s policies towards migrants—particularly migrant children.
But the public backlash to this tent city led the government to walk back policies that were keeping these 13- to 17-year-old kids in detention longer than usual. And in January, the facility was disassembled and trucked away.
Now, the best physical evidence of it can be found in a museum: An art exhibit at the University of Texas El Paso’s El Paso Centennial Museum features work created by children who lived at Tornillo. “In the midst of that secrecy, and all of us wondering about the kids, this artwork gave us a little glimpse into the lives of the kids,” said Yolanda Leyva, the director of UTEP’s Institute of Oral History, who acquired the art.
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