About 250 infants, children, and teenagers have spent up to 27 days at a U.S. Border Patrol station 25 miles outside El Paso, and the children painted a "bleak portrait" in interviews with an outside legal team, The Associated Press reported Thursday. There are three infants in the Clint station, four children 3 and under, dozens under age 12, and 15 children with the flu, 10 of whom are under quarantine, AP says.
One fussy 2-year-old with urine-soaked pants, no diaper, and a mucus-smeared shirt is being cared for by three girls age 10 to 15, after a guard handed him to them days go, AP reports. One of the lawyers also described an 8-year-old caring for a 4-year-old. Many of the children arrived at the border by themselves, but some were separated from their parents or relatives, and they told the attorneys they had gone weeks without bathing or a change of clothes. Border Patrol knew of this visit by the legal team three weeks ago.
"In my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention I have never heard of this level of inhumanity," Holly Cooper, who represents detained youth and co-directs University of California, Davis' Immigration Law Clinic, told AP. Acting Customs and Border Protection head John Sanders acknowledged the poor conditions for detained children but said Congress needed to give CBP more money.
Under government rules, the Border Patrol is supposed to hand children over to the Heath and Human Services Department's Office of Refuge Resettlement within 72 hours.
The apparent lack of adequate food and sanitation aren't unique to this station. At least five children have died after being detained since late last year, a shocked immigrant advocate discovered a teenage mother last week who'd spent more than a week with her premature baby at a Border Patrol facility in Texas, Border Patrol keeps adult migrants in outdoor cages in El Paso, and a federal inspector general's report released this month found deplorable conditions at Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities in four states.