Video: Beto O'Rourke Demands Closure of Migrant Camp—It's 'Tantamount to Torture'

Outgoing U.S. Representative Beto O'Rourke joined a protest against a child migrant detention facility in Texas, calling on the demonstrators to maintain pressure on the government to close the camp and release the children held there as a result of the Trump administration's "no tolerance" immigration policy.

More than 2,700 minors remain in custody at the camp in Tornillo, close to the Mexican border. Activists have gathered outside to sing Christmas carols and call for the release of the children.

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O'Rourke joined them Sunday, posting a clip of a speech he gave to the crowd to his Twitter page. "We can't let up. We can't stop showing up," he wrote alongside the video. "We will be back here again and again until the camp closes down for good." The protesters plan to remain there until at least January 1.

O'Rourke explained that some of the minors inside had been detained for several months, since the summer, as a result of the Trump administration's "no tolerance" immigration policy. O'Rourke called the conditions "tantamount to torture."

"To not know where your parents are, when you'll be able to be with your family. To be a stranger in a strange land, in a tent in the middle of the desert," he continued. "A kind of purgatory or limbo, not knowing when or if you're going to see your family again or if you're going to get our or go back to the country from which you fled in the first place."

The demonstration was organized by Brooklyn activist Joshua Rubin, The Guardian reported. Rubin has spent two months at the border monitoring conditions for newly arrived migrants. In his speech, O'Rourke praised Rubin's efforts and called on those present to continue supporting him and the El Paso groups working together to keep pressure on the camp.

"Let's continue to show up here," he said. "Let's continue to get behind Josh and others who have been here every single day so that we can witness with our own eyes, testify with our own words to our fellow Americans what is going on here. The fact that you are here is producing the change that these kids so desperately need."

The Tornillo facility opened this summer with a capacity of around 300 people under the management of private operator BCFS. The federal contract with the company has since been extended three times and the current period ends on December 31.

BCFS officials have said they do not wish to renew the contract, but it could take several weeks to transfer all detained minors out of its custody.

O'Rourke told the crowd he had spoken with company CEO Kevin Dinnin, and explained that Dinnin told him the center was no longer accepting children, with 300 minors ready to be transferred out of Tornillo.

Though Dinnin reportedly said he was struggling to find transportation arrangements for the children over the busy holiday period, he told O'Rourke that if transportation was found the camp could be closed by mid-January.

The Trump administration last week loosened restrictions for sponsors who wish to look after the children, a move that could accelerate their release. As of May, all adults moving into a potential sponsor's home had to submit fingerprints to the Department of Health and Human Services. The agency would then share the information with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. As of last week, only the sponsor was required to submit fingerprints.

Rubin told The Guardian he was skeptical but hopeful Dinnis was telling the truth. "I think it's possible that this place can close down," he said.

"It's possible that, if enough of us make a fuss and keep the pressure on, this place will close. If enough of these people are willing to stay here for a few days in a row, I think we can have an effect."

Tornillo protest migrant children
Protesters gather near the tent encampment built at the Tornillo-Guadalupe port of entry on June 24, in Tornillo, Texas. Protesters have called for the closing of the facility, and plan to remain there until at least January 1. Joe Raedle/Getty Images