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  • Central American migrants are seen inside an enclosure where they are being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), after crossing the border between Mexico and the United States illegally and turning themselves in to request asylum, in El Paso, Texas, March 28, 2019

    Central American migrants are seen inside an enclosure where they are being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), after crossing the border between Mexico and the United States illegally and turning themselves in to request asylum, in El Paso, Texas, March 28, 2019 | Photo: Reuters

Published 24 June 2019

The experts were left aghast when faced with scenes of children enduring traumatic and dangerous situations, lacking basic human needs including adequate food and water as well as medical care. 

More than 250 migrant children, including teens, infants, and toddlers, are locked up in "horrendous" conditions at a Border Patrol station in Texas near the city of El Paso, according to an Associated Press report published June 20.

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“In my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention, I have never heard of this level of inhumanity,” said Holly Cooper, who co-directs University of California's, Davis Immigration Law Clinic and represents detained youth. She was part of the legal team that visited the facility and interviewed dozens of children.

The experts were left aghast when faced with scenes of children enduring traumatic and dangerous situations, lacking basic human needs including adequate food and water as well as medical care. Warren Binford, a law professor and director of a Clinical Law Program was part of the team that interviewed the children gave an account of the situation the children were suffering

“When the children walked into the conference room, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. They were sick. They were coughing. They had runny noses. They were dirty, and they immediately started to describe the level of hunger that they were experiencing,” she stated, explaining that "children told us they were being fed nothing but the same meals three times a day, and they weren’t really meals."

The migrant children also described the rooms where hundreds of them are detained, and that nobody was in charge of them. They said they were left to fend for themselves, the oldest trying to take care of the youngest. 

“A Border Patrol agent came into our room with a two-year-old boy and asked us, ‘who wants to take care of this little boy?’ Another girl said she would take care of him, but she lost interest after a few hours and so I started taking care of him yesterday,” one of the girls said.

The situation has reached a point were “virtually no one is taking care of these children directly, that they are locked up in these cells 24 hours a day. There are open toilets in many of these cells. There’s no soap, no way to wash their hands,” the law professor affirmed.​​​​​​​ Many of the children are also forced to sleep on concrete floors because there is not enough beds and mats or sleeping space available.

Furthermore, children are being neglected and mistreated, as the legal team couldn't speak to at least 15, who are in critical health condition, left in quarantine, without any medical care. The attorneys managed to talk to them by phone and the children described "horrendous" quarantine conditions. 

Many of the children who recently died in these Border Patrol facilities could have been saved as they died from influenza. “These very sick children, with high fevers, are being put on the floor, on mats, largely unsupervised, locked up together for days at a time. They’re being brought the same foods that are being fed to everybody else at the facility, despite the fact that they’re very sick,” the expert explained.

All of the children detained in the facility come from Central American countries, mainly from El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras. They came to the U.S. with a relative from whom they have been separated, and half of them have their parents in the U.S.​​​​​​​

This report came the same week the Trump administration claimed in federal court that the government is not required to provide toothbrushes, soap or beds to children detained at the border and others reports found similar conditions at a number of immigration jails.

Trump's administration affirms they are overwhelmed with the number of people trying to cross the border. However, Binford maintains the "chaos" the administration is complaining about has been created by this same administration. 

“They’re breaking the law as to the conditions of detention. They’re breaking the law as to the number of hours that they can keep the children in Border Patrol facilities. They’re breaking the law as far as how long these children are being kept in facilities. They’re breaking the law by taking the children away from their families. Everywhere I look, this administration is breaking the law,” she concluded.

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