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Doctor compares U.S. child migrant detention centers in Texas to 'torture facilities'

Last week, lawyers representing all detained migrant children under the 1997 Flores class-action settlement interviewed detained children at several facilities in Texas, and they brought along a local physician, Dr. Dolly Lucio Sevier. They all left with horror stories. "The conditions within which they are held could be compared to torture facilities," Lucio Sevier wrote in a medical declaration obtained by ABC News. She had assessed 39 children under age 18 at U.S. Customs and Border Protection's largest detention facility, Ursula, in McAllen, which she described to ABC News as feeling "worse than jail" and "lawless."

The unaccompanied minors, as young as 2 1/2 months old, endured "extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food," Lucio Sevier wrote, and the teens said they had no access to hand-washing, which she described as "tantamount to intentionally causing the spread of disease." A flu outbreak at Ursula had sent five infants to the neonatal intensive care unit, and all the children Lucio Sevier saw showed signs of trauma.

Warren Binford, one of the Flores compliance lawyers who visited Border Patrol's facility in Clint, Texas, told The New Yorker about lice outbreaks, the punitive removal of mats and blankets when children lost one of two lice combs they were all using in one cell, and guards creating a food-plied "child boss" to keep other kids in line, among other disturbing incidents.

Binford told The New Yorker that "laws were being broken right and left" and almost all of the 350 children held at the Clint facility "have family members, including parents, in the United States, who are able to and want to take care of their children." Most of the kids were separated from family members, including parents, when crossing the border and lawfully seeking asylum. More than 700 children were separated from their parents between June 2018 and May, federal documents show, often with iffy legal justification.