Attorney Says Kids At West Texas Immigration Facilities Held In Horrid Conditions

Barbara Schwarz
June 21, 2019 - 8:03 pm
 U.S. Customs and Border Protection

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EL PASO (1080 KRLD) - A lawyer who recently toured West Texas immigration facilities for children says children under their care haven't seen their families for weeks. 

Clara Long with Human Rights Watch was with a team of lawyers monitoring conditions in the El Paso area. 

"In one case a little girl had a little bracelet that said on permanent marker US Parent with a phone number. I called the number and the parent had not received any phone call previously. Had no idea where his seven-year-old was being held."

She says in another case, brothers under 12 said they were traveling with an older sister who had their parents phone numbers, but when they were separated from her, she was legally an adult, they had no way of contacting their parents.

She says it doesn't appear Border Patrol officials are making efforts to reunite the children and their parents. "What they say is that all of the reunification work has to happen under the office of refugee resettlement, which is what Border Patrol says it's waiting for. It's waiting for spaces to open up under the office of refugee resettlement detention centers and shelters."  

Long was with a monitoring team and had access to speak to the children but not access to inspect their cells. She says the children told her they are held in cells with 30 to 50 kids.  "There are some beds in those cells but there are not enough beds for everybody so some are sleeping on the floor. There are not enough mattresses." 

She said they are getting the same food every day and there isn't enough. She said doctors with the team cautioned the food was full of fats and sugars and low on nutrients.  "Many were sick, visibly sick with coughs and runny noses. They were dirty. Many said they hadn't had a chance to shower in weeks. They didn't have access to toothbrushes."

She says she felt like she was witnessing "mass child neglect."

She said Border Patrol told them that they couldn't see some of the kids they asked to see and were told those kids were in quarantine. "That happened over nine times.  That made us very concerned there are large numbers of sick kids in quarantine cells."  

She says many in Texas are rightly concerned this is happening in their state.  She says the border patrol has requested more money for more detention beds. "In my view, that's wrongheaded. That's not where the United States need to go. There may be a need to spend more money on reunifying children with their families."