You’d hope that the government authorities responsible for detaining asylum seekers who arrive at the southern U.S. border would at least pay attention to detained people’s well-being and step in if something gets dangerous. By now another account, they’re not. A group of about eight lawyers and interpreters visited the Trump administration’s detention facility in McAllen, Texas, and found four toddlers so sick that the group pressured the government right then and there to hospitalize them. One of the toddlers was completely unresponsive, and the lawyers fear that if they had not shown up for what was supposed to just be interviews with detainees about conditions at the facility, the children would never have received treatment.
Explaining that they felt “the number of migrants in need of hospitalization is likely much higher,” Florida-based attorney Toby Gialluca, who was among those who visited the facility, shared:
‘It’s intentional disregard for the well-being of children. The guards continue to dehumanize these people and treat them worse than we would treat animals.
Some 30 immigrants have died after being taken into U.S. custody under the Trump administration, including at this point about two dozen adults and have a dozen children. Before recently, the last time a migrant child died in federal custody was 2010 — and considering the inhuman conditions being consistently uncovered lately at detention facilities across the country, those numbers could soon go up.
The internal government watchdog covering the Department of Homeland Security found during an unannounced visit to one detention facility in the El Paso area that people were being left in standing room only conditions for days or even weeks at a time with some of the obvious unsafe and not remotely sanitary conditions one might expect to accompany such a situation. Where there were supposed to be no more than 125 people, the oversight crew found some 900, a situation they bluntly called dangerous and urged to be immediately addressed. When lawyers visited that apparently same facility near El Paso, they found further deplorable conditions like “an 8-year-old taking care of a very small 4-year-old with matted hair” that “couldn’t convince the little one to take a shower.”
Detained youth representative and University of California, Davis’ Immigration Law Clinic’s Co-Director Holly Cooper shared:
‘In my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention, I have never heard of this level of inhumanity.’
The lawyers who visited border patrol facilities recently were there as part of the carrying out of the Flores settlement that emerged from a case surrounding child detention in the 1990s. That settlement demanded that the government provide “safe and sanitary” conditions for those it keeps in custody and that children be kept for no longer than 72 hours, but both of these elements of the agreement have been breached.
In a recent court hearing, a Trump administration attorney argued against having to provide detainees with elements like soap and toothbrushes, which the judges on the panel all reacted to with utter astonishment. As HuffPost notes, Trump administration members “have blamed horrific conditions at detention facilities on the fact that Congress has not yet passed an emergency funding package that would include almost $3 billion to help care for unaccompanied migrant children,” but funding for their pet projects is not keeping border patrol agents from actively taking steps to alleviate the suffering of those in detention and try and get them out when they’re held without cause anyway, as Gialluca noted.
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