The tent city popped up over the summer, about 40 miles from El Paso, as the U.S. government sought more space to hold hundreds of unaccompanied teenagers caught crossing the Rio Grande from places like Honduras and Guatemala. It was supposed to be a temporary solution, but a one-month contract to operate the camp stretched to two months, then three, then into the holidays as its population swelled.
After holding more than 6,000 immigrant teenagers over its seven-month lifespan, the controversial detention center — which drew a steady stream of protestors and fact-finding members of Congress who took tours and denounced what they saw — saw the last of its detainees leave last week. Many were placed with family members or other sponsors in the U.S. while others were sent to different facilities to continue their detention.
In this report, CityLab explores life inside Tornillo, its place in the history of American detention camps and what the place symbolized for the people who call that corner of West Texas home.