The controversy surrounding living situations for children detained at the United States' southern border has reached a peak in recent weeks. As debate continues about whether migrant detention centers at the border can be considered concentration camps, reports of conditions in migrant detention centers are forcing many people to speak up. This information is troubling, to say the least.
On June 21, The New York Times reported that a border detention center housing migrant children in Clint, Texas, did not contain supplies including soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, diapers, or beds, leaving children wearing filthy clothes for days. In addition, due to lack of supplies, the Times reported that some detainees had not been able to take a bath or brush their teeth since they arrived at the facility. Children detained at the facility were also allegedly held for "nearly a month," despite federal law limiting the time children can be held in custody to 20 days. Children are not meant to stay in Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) custody for longer than 72 hours, per federal law. The Clint facility is not the only facility allegedly facing major issues, per the report — another center housing adult migrants in El Paso, Texas, is facing serious overcrowding issues, with 900 detainees behind held in a space meant for 125, according to the Times. Elite Daily reached out to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for comment on these reports, but did not hear back by the time of publication.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is responsible for caring for unaccompanied migrant children, told Elite Daily in a statement that HHS "plays no role in the apprehension or initial detention of [unaccompanied children] prior to their referral to HHS custody and HHS is not a party to the child’s immigration proceedings." HHS added that children were waiting too long in CBP facilities due to "the unprecedented number of arriving children." The statement said in part,
HHS is working diligently to expand its bed capacity to ensure that it can keep pace, and based on the anticipated growth, HHS expects its need for additional bed capacity to continue. We continue to experience a humanitarian and security crisis at the southern border of the United States, and the situation becomes more dire each day.
Following public outcry, "hundreds" of the children at the Clint facility were moved, the Times reported on June 24. A spokeswoman for Rep. Veronica Escobar, a Texas Democrat who had been looking into the reports, told the Times that some children had been moved into shelters run by HHS, while others have been sent to a "temporary tent facility" in El Paso. In an email to Elite Daily, an HHS representative confirmed that 249 children located in the Clint center had been moved into HHS custody as of June 25.
The reported living conditions have caught the attention of celebrities, activists, and politicians alike. However, not everyone is convinced that these reports are troubling. On June 18, Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyer Sarah Fabian argued with Ninth Circuit Court judges about reports of allegedly inhumane living conditions in the facility. While the circuit judges pushed Fabian by explaining supplies such as beds, toothpaste, and soap were essential supplies for "safe and sanitary" needs, Fabian implied that those items were not necessary. "In CBP custody, it's frequently intended to be shorter term, so it may be that for a shorter-term stay in CBP custody that some of those things may not be required," Fabian said, per NowThis News.
The 1997 Flores settlement requires that all unaccompanied minors taken into DHS custody must live in conditions that meet standard requirements. This includes safe and sanitary facilities, including accessibility to toilets, sinks, medical assistance, food and drinking water, and more. However, current reports about the conditions in facilities are not reassuring, including reports that a handful of migrant children are severely ill while being held in custody. DHS did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's request for comment on the reports of the children's illness.
On June 21, The Huffington Post reported that a border facility in McAllen, Texas, neglected four migrant children who were severely ill and showing symptoms of the flu. The children, all under the age of 3, reportedly experienced severe diarrhea, high fever, vomiting, and coughing. Lawyers reportedly eventually intervened and forced the U.S. government to hospitalize the children.
In addition, NBC News reported on June 9 that 24 immigrants have allegedly died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody since April. This doesn't account for four other reported deaths of immigrants who allegedly died shortly after being released. In a statement emailed to Elite Daily on June 20, ICE said, "U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) takes very seriously the health, safety and welfare of those in our care ... Any death that happens in ICE custody is a cause for concern." An ICE official also said that deaths in custody were at a six-year low. In a June 3 report, the Office of Inspector General of Homeland Security found that two facilities failed quality of life standards, featuring inadequate medical care, overcrowding, and expired food.
Protests and outcry against the reported conditions aren't likely to die down anytime soon, but in the meantime, read up on the issue. If anything, it's always important to stay informed.