A “staggering number” of children being held at a Customs and Border Protection facility in Texas are facing “concerning” conditions as the population of unaccompanied minors held in border patrol custody has jumped nearly 700%.
CBS News reports that lawyers, representing the migrant children, are lodging complaints about their treatment, after interviewing children who complained over overcrowding, of being left hungry, of going days without showering, and of “never” seeing the sun while being housed in the Texas detention centers.
“Neha Desai, a lawyer representing migrant youth in U.S. government custody, said she interviewed children who said they were hungry, as well as minors who only showered once in seven days,” CBS News noted late Saturday.
“Some of the boys said that conditions were so overcrowded that they had to take turns sleeping on the floor,” Desai said, referencing interviews the legal team had done with children being held in a facility in Donna, Texas. “They all said they wanted to shower more and were told they couldn’t.”
Some of the children who are being held in United States custody are very young — under the age of eight — or have very young children of their own.
The Texas facility is one of several being pressed into service amid a crisis of unaccompanied minor migrants on the border. Reports last week noted that nearly 3,000 children have either presented themselves to CBP or been captured trying to cross the border illegally, leaving the Biden administration, which rolled back a number of stringent Trump administration-era immigration policies as a way of demonstrating their friendlier policies toward asylum seekers, so desperate for housing options they’ve toyed with reopening even controversial border detention centers.
Lawyers for immigrant rights agencies said they’ve only been given limited contact with the children and have not been allowed to tour the facility.
“The Donna facility, which opened last month, has been operating over its pandemic-era capacity for weeks, CBP acknowledged in a recent filing in federal court. The facility was holding 854 children on February 21 and nearly 700 two days before, according to the court filing, which also noted that social distancing ‘could not be observed at all times given the increasing numbers of individuals in custody,'” CBS reported Saturday.
Currently, the facility is estimated to be at 700% capacity.
Although the Biden administration as a whole has yet to call the situation a “crisis,” the White House announced on Sunday that it would call in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help minister to the child migrants in United States custody, per the BBC.
“The Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) would ‘help receive, shelter and transport the children’ for the next 90 days, it was announced,” the British news agency said Sunday.
Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas made the announcement, telling media that FEMA would work with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to ‘look at every available option to quickly expand physical capacity for appropriate lodging.'”
“Our goal is to ensure that unaccompanied children are transferred to HHS as quickly as possible, consistent with legal requirements and in the best interest of the children,” he said.