The Trump administration is planning to open yet another temporary shelter for migrant kids in a former “man camp” in Carrizo Springs, Texas, about 30 miles from the Mexico border.
The facility, once used to house workers in the Eagle Ford Shale oil fields nearby, will be converted to house up to 1,600 migrant children.
A website for the location, “The Studios at Carrizo Springs,” describes it as offering “all the comforts found in apartment-style living,” including single and double bedrooms, satellite television, linen changes, and 24-hour security.
The website also advertises something called the “man cave” — a recreation space with a pool table and an 82-inch TV.
The Department of Health and Human Services did not respond to questions about who would run the facility. Several organizations have run temporary migrant shelters for the government in the past, including Comprehensive Health Services, which runs the Homestead shelter in Florida, and the nonprofit BCFS, which ran the now-shuttered Tornillo shelter for migrant children, in Texas.
Kevin Dinnin, CEO of BCFS, told VICE News the company is scouting it, along with other potential contractors. The Office of Refugee Resettlement, which oversees migrant shelters for children in the U.S., wants the facility open within the month, Dinnin said.
“I don’t know who’s going to operate it, because I haven’t said yes,” he said, noting that BCFS would not provide a shelter that did not offer recreational activities, which ORR directed other shelters to cut this week.
The Dimmit County Central Appraisal District, where the property is located, lists the property’s current owners as Stratton Oilfield Systems. A website for The Studios says the property is “wholly owned” by Stratton Oilfield Systems, a subdivision of Stratton Securities Inc., a modular housing company run by Dan and Shannon Stratton that describes itself as working primarily with the U.S. military.
Life at the “man camp” wasn’t half bad, according to workers who shared their experiences on TripAdvisor. “Best man camp in South Texas,” declared Rob M. in 2014. “Been using the The Studios with my work crews for the past three months — top-notch facility in a large, secure compound,” he raved.
It’s not the first time The Studios has been considered for migrant housing.
Stratton Securities tried to open the facility as a family detention center in 2016, with a bid for a $50 million contract. Dimmit County commissioners rejected the proposal.
At a public meeting recorded by immigration advocacy nonprofit RAICES in 2016, owner/president Dan Stratton described the potential facility.
“Here’s what I’m going to tell you: The immigrants who come to this facility have already been vetted. It means they’ve already been checked out. Eighty-five percent of them are women and children,” he said.
He also tried to reassure residents there would be no Syrians at the facility.
“More than 51% of folks that work or might work at this facility have to be bilingual. English and Spanish. Not Arabic. There are no Syrians coming to this facility,” he said.
He emphasized that migrants would not be free to leave.
“They don’t go to school in your schools. They go to school in the schools on the camp. Can they leave the camp? No!” he said. “No, they cannot leave the camp. I think it’s probably the biggest issue — are they gonna invade our community? Are they gonna take our jobs? Are they gonna run around and murder people?”
“No!” he said.
Additional reporting by Emily Green and Antonia Hylton
Cover: Image from the Studios at Carrizo Springs website, December 2013