Over 2,000 Afghan refugees are held under maximum security in a very secretive camp in the middle of New Mexico’s desert, with the nature of the facility and the type of asylum seekers it hosts remaining a mystery to the public.
Maximum security refugee camp cut off from the world
The facility in question is the Dona Ana Range Complex, a subcamp of Fort Bliss, near New Mexico’s Organ Mountains, but surround by a red desert.
There are a total of 2,160 Afghans in the camp, and they are being guarded by more than 1,000 US service personnel, according to a report by The Daily Mail, whose reporters tried to visit the secretive facility but were stopped and turned back by military police more than a mile before reaching it.
The reporters were even banned from taking photos of the camp from a distance without any explanation.
The maximum-security cutting off the facility from the outside world was instituted as soon as the first group of Afghans arrived there recently.
The Dona Ana Range Complex was brought to the public’s attention earlier this week when Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas declared that the Afghans in the camp could freely walk out of there simply by calling an Uber.
According to the report of The Daily Mail, however, that wouldn’t be the case – it cites a military source as saying that any cabs heading the way of the Afghan refugee camp would be stopped much before they would be able to reach it.
Cruz was indeed allowed to visit the camp in question last week together with Democrat Rep. Veronica Escobar, also of Texas, but only with a military escort.
The Dona Ana Range Complex, whose white tents for the refugees from Afghanistan could nonetheless be seen from afar, is being managed by Fort Bliss, a Texas base of the US Army.
The report cites a Fort Bliss spokesman as saying that permission to visit the camp is decided upon on a case-by-case basis by the Department of Defense and the State Department, and no media and reporters have been allowed to visit so far.
Earlier this week, on Monday, Sen. Ted Cruz claimed that Afghans from the Fort Bliss subcamp were riding 30 miles in Uber cabs to the city of El Paso, Texas, 30 miles away.
Cruz, who is opposed to the resettlement of any Afghans in the US and thinks that they should be sent to third countries, also said he was told by the Fort Bliss leadership that nobody is being kept in the camp by force – so anybody that wishes could just leave.
According to the Daily Mail, no Afghan has left the camp since arriving, and “most” will remain until the completion of their visa process and the securing of permanent housing.
Robbed blind by the Taliban
According to a military source from the Dona Ana complex, the Afghans will be able to leave only after their paperwork gets fully processed.
The source revealed further that the base “is also being used” for some American citizens evacuated from Afghanistan – and those may leave at any time as long as they have all of the documents.
George Elsaesser, the Armed Forces YMCA director in El Paso, the organization handling donations for the families from Afghanistan housed at Dona Ana, scolded Cruz for speaking as a “politician.”
He said most of the Afghan refugees came with only a change of clothes and could afford to pay $56 for a Uber ride to El Paso.
Elsaesser added that the Afghan families in question had their belongings taken away from the Taliban, or just went to the airport in Kabul without any bagging knowing that the Taliban checkpoints would stop those carrying bags.