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Migrant Children Moved From Texas Border Patrol Center After Outcry

Reports of children detained in crowded and unsanitary conditions long beyond the maximum legal limit have created a new controversy over the administration’s immigration policies.

The entrance of a Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas. U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the agency is removing children from the facility following reports of unsanitary conditions inside.

More than 200 migrant children detained in a remote Border Patrol station in southwest Texas without adequate food, water and sanitation have been moved after news of the conditions became public last week.

“This morning, my office was informed that only 30 children remain in the Clint Border Patrol station in El Paso County,” Rep. Veronica Escobar tweeted Monday. She said that last week lawyers for Human Rights Watch had “found 255 children in beyond alarming conditions.”

A law professor who recently visited the facility, Warren Binford of Willamette University, described the conditions for children in an interview with NPR’s Lulu Garcia Navarro.

“Many of them are sleeping on concrete floors, including infants, toddlers, preschoolers. They are being given nothing but instant meals, Kool-Aid and cookies — many of them are sick. We are hearing that many of them are not sleeping. Almost all of them are incredibly sad and being traumatized. Many of them have not been given a shower for weeks. Many of them are not being allowed to brush their teeth except for maybe once every 10 days. They have no access to soap. It’s incredibly unsanitary conditions, and we’re very worried about the children’s health.”

News of the conditions at the Clint facility was first reported last week by The Associated Press based on initial interviews with Binford and other lawyers who were conducting inspections under the terms of the Flores settlement, a legal agreement that spells out how the government is supposed to treat detained migrant children.

The AP reported:

“A 2-year-old boy locked in detention wants to be held all the time. A few girls, ages 10 to 15, say they’ve been doing their best to feed and soothe the clingy toddler who was handed to them by a guard days ago. Lawyers warn that kids are taking care of kids, and there’s inadequate food, water and sanitation for the 250 infants, children and teens at the Border Patrol station.”

In a statement issued Friday, Customs and Border Protection said it “leverages our limited resources to provide the best care possible to those in our custody, especially children,” and “all allegations of civil rights abuses or mistreatment in CBP detention are taken seriously and investigated to the fullest extent possible.”

Under the Flores settlement, children detained by the Border Patrol are supposed to be turned over to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services, within 72 hours. Some children said they had been kept at the Clint facility for weeks.

It is not clear where the children formerly detained at the Clint facility have been transferred. Escobar said some of the children were temporarily sent to Border Patrol Station 1 on the north side of El Paso.

Vice President Pence told CNN on Sunday that the administration is asking Congress for funds to pay for more bed space for migrant families.

“Congress needs to provide additional support to deal with our crisis on our southern border,” Pence said.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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