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She fled Honduras to save her son. In the US, she fears they'll be apart

Dalia Suyapa held her son close by her side as Border Patrol agents watched their every move before taking them to a ...

Posted: Jun. 16, 2018 4:21 PM
Updated: Jun. 16, 2018 4:21 PM

Dalia Suyapa held her son close by her side as Border Patrol agents watched their every move before taking them to a processing center.

The 24-year-old mother says she fled Honduras to escape gang violence, and was ready to face an uncertain fate in the United States. But she didn't know being separated from her son, Cesar, was a possibility.

"I didn't know that they could separate me from my son. I didn't know," she said.

"Yes, (I am) very scared. He is my son and I love him. I've carried him throughout the journey and it was hard," she added. It's unclear whether the mother and son were separated after Border Patrol agents took them to a processing center.

At least 2,000 children have been separated from parents at the border since the Trump administration implemented a new "zero-tolerance" policy in May.

The policy means charging every adult caught crossing the border illegally with federal crimes, as opposed to referring those with children mainly to immigration courts, as previous administrations did.

The policy is expected to lead to a sharp uptick in the number of children separated from parents at the border, and such practice has already put a strain on the US Department of Health and Human Services -- the agency that takes custody of the children.

A 'tent city' for immigrant children

At least 298 immigrant children were being transferred Friday to the first temporary shelter opened by the Trump administration to handle the overflow of unaccompanied children, Texas Democratic state Rep. Mary E. Gonz-lez said.

On Friday, a few children were seen playing soccer outside tents at the Tornillo-Marcelino Serna port of entry, about 20 miles east of El Paso, Texas, CNN affiliate KFOX reported.

The Department of Health and Human Services confirmed Thursday it will be opening the children's shelter in Tornillo. The agency had previously said it was operating near capacity and was searching for additional locations to house the children.

Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for HHS, said the facility in Tornillo would be made up of "soft-sided structures" and an initial capacity for 360 beds.

The buildings, also known as "semipermanent structures," will have full cooling and heating systems, floors and doors, Wolfe said.

Rep. Gonzalez, whose district includes Tornillo, said the site is "no place for these children in the middle of the desert in the middle of nowhere," pointing out the extreme hot temperatures recorded there nearly every day.

The temperature in Tornillo was 95 degrees Friday, according to the National Weather Service.

CNN has reached out to HHS to ask how many children are currently at the Tornillo facility and how many are expected to arrive.

In a statement, Texas Republican Rep. Will Hurd, whose district includes the site where the shelter is, said he was disappointed for the lack of information that HHS has made public about their plans for a "tent city" in Tornillo.

"The crisis along the border is not new and will continue until we have smart border security, work to address root causes of mass migration from Central American countries and have enough immigration judges to apply consequences for violation of the law. Our strategy to solving our broken immigration system should never include the use of children as a deterrent," he said.

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