From sleeping on “freezing” concrete floors with the lights on 24 hours a day to being denied access to basic hygiene products like soap and toothbrushes, hundreds of migrant children being held in at least two U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities are facing conditions one doctor described as comparable to “torture facilities.”
Warren Binford, a law professor at Willamette University, shared her firsthand account detailing the grave conditions she saw during a recent visit to a Texas migrant detention facility where 250 infants, children and teenagers were being held without adequate food, water or sanitation:
“Basically, what we saw are dirty children who are malnourished, who are being severely neglected. They are being kept in inhumane conditions. They are essentially being warehoused, as many as 300 children in a cell, with almost no adult supervision.
We have children caring for other young children. For example, we saw a little boy in diapers — or he had no diapers on. He should have had a diaper on. He was 2 years old. And when I was asked why he didn’t have diapers on, I was told he didn’t need it.
He immediately urinated. And he was in the care of another child. Children cannot take care of children, and yet that’s how they are trying to run this facility. The children are hardly being fed anything nutritious, and they are being medically neglected.
We’re seeing a flu outbreak, and we’re also seeing a lice infestation. It is — we have children sleeping on the floor. It’s the worst conditions I have ever witnessed in several years of doing these inspections.”
Almost none of the children that we interviewed had come across the border themselves alone. Essentially, they came across the border with family. And they are trying to be reunited with family who are living in the United States. Almost every child that I interviewed had family, parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents, siblings here in the United States who are waiting for them and are ready to care for them.
“The conditions within which they are held could be compared to torture facilities,” wrote physician, Dolly Lucio Sevier, in a medical declaration after his visit last week to border patrol holding facilities in Clint, Texas, and McAllen, a city in the southern part of the state.
ABC News reports:
Lucio Sevier, who works in private practice in the area, was granted access to the Ursula facility in McAllen, which is the largest CBP detention center in the country, after lawyers found out about a flu outbreak there that sent five infants to the neonatal intensive care unit.
After assessing 39 children under the age of 18, she described conditions for unaccompanied minors at the McAllen facility as including “extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food.”
All the children who were seen showed evidence of trauma, Lucio Sevier reported, and the teens spoke of having no access to hand washing during their entire time in custody. She compared it to being “tantamount to intentionally causing the spread of disease.”
Lucio Sevier told ABC that the facility “felt worse than jail.”
“It just felt, you know, lawless,” she said. “I mean, imagine your own children there. I can’t imagine my child being there and not being broken.”
The medical declaration noted that many teen mothers in custody described not having the ability to wash their children’s bottle.
It also reported that children who were older than 6 months were not provided age-appropriate meal options, including no pureed foods necessary for a child’s development, Lucio Sevier reported.
“To deny parents the ability to wash their infant’s bottles is unconscionable and could be considered intentional mental and emotional abuse,” she wrote.
The conditions documented at the Texas facilities match up with a recent Homeland Security inspector general report that found “dangerous overcrowding” and unsanitary conditions at a different CBP facility in El Paso, Texas, where hundreds more migrants were being housed than the center was designed to hold.