Glenwood Springs’ Claire Noone details trip to Tornillo’s ‘tent city’
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Claire Noone, a 30-year-old attorney who lives in Glenwood Springs, has returned from Tornillo, Texas where she provided legal assistance to children currently being held in a detention facility commonly referred to as the “tent city.”
The facility is used to detain unaccompanied immigrant children at the border. After Noone set up a GoFundMe page, residents from throughout the Roaring Fork Valley donated roughly $4,500 to fund Noone’s efforts to provide legal guidance at the camp.
“There are so many people in this community that see a need, even though it is far away, even though they cannot see the children, that they know it’s something that is our duty to make right,” Noone said. “I have actually committed to go back two more times, due to the money I raised.”
Noone, upon arrival, heard the tent city was actually two, if not three times the size of the actual town of Tornillo, which has a population, according to the most recent census data, of 1,568.
Unless one has the proper credentials — like Noone and fellow attorneys from Seattle to Boston — getting within 200 yards of the gates to the tent city is impossible.
“It is really out of the way, intentionally,” Noone explained. “Away from the eyes of the public intentionally.”
Noone described her workspace inside the camp as resembling a small shipping container, akin to a portable on-demand storage (PODS) unit where she assisted a subset of the camp’s children, usually between the ages of 12-14.
“They were very sweet,” Noone said. “All of these children are very good to each other. I did notice a real camaraderie around them.”
Many of the children Noone assisted, roughly 95 percent, she said, were from the northern triangle including Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Most said they were fleeing gang recruitment which gave young boys the option of either joining a gang and likely being killed in that capacity, or not joining and being murdered, point blank on the spot.
The recurring cycle leaves parents with little choice other than to save money to supply their children, so they can escape, often in groups, and having to leaving their mothers and fathers behind. According to Noone, the “hot age,” as they refer to it for gang recruitment, falls between 10 and 14.
“The parents really are putting all of their faith in the fact that their child has a better chance of survival if they make it into the United States,” Noone said.
Noone described how the journey to the United States has gotten considerably more expensive in the last decade, to the tune of $9,000.
“Gangs have become hip to the routes and they often will rob or extort and also a lot of officials have become kind of corrupted and take bribes in order to allow passage,” Noone detailed. “So, the journey itself often costs everything that a family owns just to send one person.”
According to Noone, one child she spoke with from Guatemala headed north following the death of his mother and father who were both murdered by a gang.
Another child from Honduras also struck a chord with Noone, not only because of the violence he was fleeing, but of what he learned along his journey on foot.
“He was on his own and just followed different groups north,” Noone said of the boy. “Apparently he had been practicing for the whole walk north, which took him three weeks, the Pledge of Allegiance.”
According to Noone, the young child recited it perfectly to her.
“He was so proud,” Noone added.
Melina Valsecia said her experience as an immigrant in Eagle County helped her understand the need for a new way of looking at how service providers engage with the growing Latino population, many of whom are first- or second-generation immigrants.