It appears that the appalling conditions under which migrant children were held during the Trump administration are still continuing under the Biden administration.
Hundreds of immigrant children and teenagers have been detained at a Border Patrol tent facility in packed conditions, with some sleeping on the floor because there aren’t enough mats, according to nonprofit lawyers who conduct oversight of immigrant detention centers.
The lawyers interviewed more than a dozen children Thursday in Donna, Texas, where the Border Patrol is holding more than 1,000 people. Some of the youths told the lawyers they had been at the facility for a week or longer, despite the agency’s three-day limit for detaining children. Many said they haven’t been allowed to phone their parents or other relatives who may be wondering where they are.
Despite concerns about the coronavirus, the children are kept so closely together that they can touch the person next to them, the lawyers said. Some have to wait five days or more to shower, and there isn’t always soap available, just shampoo, according to the lawyers.
President Joe Biden’s administration denied the lawyers access to the tent facility. During the administration of former President Donald Trump, attorney visits to Border Patrol stations revealed severe problems, including dozens of children held at one rural station without adequate food, water, or soap.
“It is pretty surprising that the administration talks about the importance of transparency and then won’t let the attorneys for children set eyes on where they’re staying,” said Leecia Welch of the National Center for Youth Law, one of the lawyers. “I find that very disappointing.”
‘Disappointing’ is a massive understatement. This is a scandal.
Yesterday, the Biden administration announced that it was sending FEMA “to go to the southern border and help care for increasing numbers of unaccompanied child migrants arriving there.”
What’s happening: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas had directed FEMA to “support a government-wide effort over the next 90 days to safely receive, shelter, and transfer unaccompanied children who make the dangerous journey to the U.S. southwest border.”
What they’re saying: Mayorkas said in a statement anyone apprehended at the border would continue to be denied entry and are returned to “effectively protect both the health and safety of migrants and our communities from the spread” of COVID-19.
- “A Border Patrol facility is no place for a child,” Mayorkas said. “We are working in partnership with HHS to address the needs of unaccompanied children, which is made only more difficult given the protocols and restrictions required to protect the public health and the health of the children themselves.
- “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.”
Let’s hope that they act quickly to improve these appalling conditions.