Texas 'Uncaged Art' displays work from teen immigrants

A curator says artwork created by teenage immigrants who were held in a now-dismantled West Texas tent city portrays their longing for freedom

EL PASO, Texas -- Artwork created by teenage immigrants who were held in a now-dismantled tent city in West Texas portrays their longing for freedom and comforting places, a curator said.

The fundamental theme in the "Uncaged Art" exhibition is the Quetzal bird and its colorful plumage, The Dallas Morning News reported . David Romo, an El Paso historian who co-curated the exhibition, said the birds, admired by Aztec and Mayan people, symbolize a "yearning to be freed."

The artwork by former detainees at the Tornillo tent city is being displayed at the Centennial Museum at the University of Texas at El Paso until this fall.

"We heard from a teacher inside Tornillo that one of the children remarked that the 'Quetzal cannot be caged because otherwise it will die of sadness,'" said Romo, as he led a tour of the exhibition.

The exhibition is inside a plastic tent complete with a chain-link fence to provide visitors with the feeling of living at the Tornillo center.

"You're literally in a tent," he said. "You even have the bunk beds. We're working to put in some green carpeting. We're trying to re-create the idea of confinement and darkness, which is how they lived."

Between June and January, Tornillo lodged up to 3,000 youths at a time, ranging in age from 13 to 17, as part of President Donald Trump's "zero tolerance policy." The facility was closed by the end of January.

The U.S. government recently announced it will open two new tent cities in Texas to house up to 1,000 immigrants.

Government officials said the tent cities are necessary to contain a substantial influx of migrants, primarily from Central America, adding that their sheer numbers are overpowering federal authorities on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

"The humanitarian and border security crisis on our Southwest border has stretched our resources and processing facilities to the breaking point," said John P. Sanders, the senior official now fulfilling the responsibilities of the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. "These temporary facilities will support our efforts to process, care for and transfer the unprecedented number of families and unaccompanied children crossing the border illegally each day."


Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com