Border Detention Facilities Creating Alarming Health Crisis With Overcrowding And Lack Of Hygiene

A girl from Central America rests on thermal blankets at a detention facility run by the U.S. Border Patrol on September 8, 2014 in McAllen, Texas.
John Moore / Getty Images

A health crisis has been brewing at several U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities in Texas due to overcrowding, poor hygiene, and dirty conditions, reports CNN. Among the reports from various detention facilities include children being held for multiple weeks with only one opportunity to shower and a shortage of beds, causing children to sleep on the floor. At all facilities, there was rampant illness among those detained.

Clara Long, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, detailed what she saw at a border patrol station in Clint, Texas, where unaccompanied minors were being held.

“The kids had colds and were sick and said they didn’t have access to soap to wash their hands. It was an alcohol-based cleanser. Some kids who were detained for 2-3 weeks had only one or two opportunities to shower. One said they hadn’t showered in three weeks.”

Long added that hygiene and living conditions like these at the border patrol station create a risk of spreading infectious disease and expressed her concern about a public health emergency.

Attorney Toby Gialluca was another who reported back on conditions after visiting the Ursula Processing Center in McAllen, Texas. He reported that everyone he saw there was ill, calling it “a pervasive health crisis.”

Allegations that border control is neglecting migrant children was first reported by The Associated Press earlier this week after a legal team interviewed 60 children being detained in Texas facilities.

Data collected from the attorneys showed that the flu was running rampant among detained children. They also reported inadequate food, poor sanitation, and a lack of water. Children were being held for over 20 days, the maximum allowed by the Flores court settlement, and there was a huge lack in child care, with slightly older children forced to care for younger ones.

Yet another problem noticed by the attorneys was that children were not provided with adequate clothing, with younger babies often dressed in just a “filthy onesie” with no pants, shoes, or socks.

Holly Cooper, who co-directs the University of California, Davis’ Immigration Law Clinic and represents detained youth, declared that in the 22 years she has been visiting children held in detention centers, she had never seen the level of inhumanity that she is currently seeing.

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Border patrol is holding around 15,000 people, and the agency considers 4,000 to be the capacity. Additionally, this overcrowding, as well as the poor conditions, have reportedly led to the deaths of five immigrant children since last year.

The conditions at the border control facilities have caused many to criticize the Trump administration, going so far as to accuse government agencies of violating the human rights of migrant children.

San Francisco psychoanalyst Gilbert Kliman, who evaluates children and parents seeking asylum, says that the trauma experienced by migrants in these detention centers is causing lasting damage.

“The care of children by children constitutes a betrayal of adult responsibility, governmental responsibility.”