Tornillo’s Tent City Symbolizes Trump’s War on Latinos

By Janet Murguía, UnidosUS President and CEO

It’s a hundred degrees in Tornillo, Texas, but there are children here who don’t have anything except for a tent to protect them from the scorching heat.

I joined hundreds of other advocates who traveled to Tornillo to demand an end to the inhumanity happening at our border. Families who reach the border are detained, and children are separated from their parents. So many have been detained that a tent city has been built in Tornillo to provide shelter.

The day began with a prayer that the rally would embody a peaceful call to reunite more than 2,000 children with their families. I spoke alongside elected officials, fellow civil rights leaders, and advocates, some of whom are UnidosUS Affiliates. We each shared why this fight is a personal one for us.

The crowd was diverse, but I noticed that most of the speakers and attendees were Hispanic. This abomination of a human rights violation impacts our community at the deepest level.

Through chants, poetry, art, and the raw passion you could sense in the crowd, it was clear to me — to all of us — that this fight to reunite Latino families requires unity, but must be led by Latinos.


If “tent city” rings a bell, it’s probably because of Joe Arpaio’s infamous outdoor prison, which was closed down last year because, among other reasons, it was needlessly humiliating and inhumane. These children are being treated the same way.

After a journey of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles, escaping levels of violence and poverty that most of us will never experience, asylum-seeking children who are desperate for safety finally reach their new home only to be taken from their parents. Officials speak to them in a language they don’t understand. They’re taken to shelters where they don’t know anyone, with no idea where their parents are.

In all, there are more than 11,000 children either detained or in temporary shelters. They miss their parents, the only parts of their lives they didn’t lose in the journey, until they crossed the border.

Despite efforts to blame others and confuse us with lies, President Trump is responsible for the suffering and trauma we’re witnessing. There is no process in place to reunite these families. Fathers have committed suicide. Mothers have had their babies wrenched from their arms while breastfeeding. These children will suffer lifelong consequences, and some may never see their parents again.

Although Trump issued an executive order to stop the public outcry, it isn’t a real solution. Fewer families will be separated, but they will still be detained. If the order goes through, they can be detained in government and military facilities indefinitely. They can be detained — imprisoned — while the Trump administration hopes we forget about them. But we won’t forget.

This isn’t the first time Trump has tried to separate families. When he took DACA status away from our children, he was separating families. When he repealed temporary protected status, he was separating families. His lack of action regarding Hurricane Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico led to the separation of families through the migration of thousands to the states. And in the past two months alone, hundreds of families have been separated in four states because of workplace raids that indiscriminately target our community.


At the Tornillo rally, one of the day’s speakers said, “The only fight we lose is the fight we give up.” No one in the crowd was willing to give up fighting for what they know in their hearts is right. Tornillo showed us all that there’s energy and momentum to resist Trump’s cruel and barbaric anti-immigrant policies, now more than ever before. It also showcased the resilience, solidarity, and action in the community.

Tornillo is just the beginning. There are rallies scheduled in cities across the country on June 30. Lend your voice and show your outrage at a rally near you. Go with your friends and family.

Your voice is crucial right now, and so is your vote. The most important thing you can do is register to vote, and show up at the polls. Our votes can put a stop to abhorrent policies that demean others and tear loving families apart.

Tent cities in the middle of the desert do not represent the country I know and love, and I can’t stand silent in the face of devastating and unamerican policies. Stand with me, and embody America at its best by demanding a humane solution for these families.

The largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, UnidosUS works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans.