Conditions at a Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas, were so appalling for the migrant children being detained there that some of those who worked at the site sounded the alarm to superiors. But nothing happened until a group of lawyers and lawmakers began raising hell publicly after visiting Texas border facilities.
An extensive report by The New York Times and The El Paso Times details the squalor in which these migrant children were kept at the Clint center and others like it, which was so bad that it caused employees to break down emotionally. According to the report, CBP leadership “knew for months that some children had no beds to sleep on, no way to clean themselves and sometimes went hungry.”
The report said that inside the secretive Clint site, which opened in 2013, “the men and women who work there were grappling with the stuff of nightmares.”
Here’s an excerpt:
Outbreaks of scabies, shingles and chickenpox were spreading among the hundreds of children who were being held in cramped cells, agents said. The stench of the children’s dirty clothing was so strong it spread to the agents’ own clothing — people in town would scrunch their noses when they left work. The children cried constantly. One girl seemed likely enough to try to kill herself that the agents made her sleep on a cot in front of them, so they could watch her as they were processing new arrivals.
A Border Patrol agent described being ordered to remove the children’s beds to make room for a holding cell for more kids. Another said agents would become “teary-eyed” when discussing the situation.
Texas lawmaker Mary González said Border Patrol agents told her they had repeatedly warned their bosses about overcrowding, the newspapers reported. But according to one agent, “nobody was listening to us.”
Following visits earlier this week to border detention facilities, which are being credibly described as concentration camps, lawmakers denounced the inhumane conditions and overcrowding, both for children and adults. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez noted that women were being held in cells without running water and were told to drink toilet water. Rep. Joaquin Castro noted that some women had been held for more than 50 days, hadn’t bathed in two weeks, and didn’t receive the medication they needed.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said, “The conditions under which women and children are being held are disgusting and amount to nothing short of child abuse and degradation.”
Chief Border Patrol Agent Aaron Hull responded by telling Fox News on Wednesday that the “allegations are not accurate.”
“We aren’t keeping people in inhumane conditions. It’s unfortunate they’re overcrowded but it is not a secret,” he said.
But that is not the picture that emerges from his agents’ own descriptions in the Times’ story:
Three agents who work at Clint said they had seen unaccompanied children as young as 3 enter the facility, and lawyers who recently inspected the site as part of a lawsuit on migrant children’s rights said they saw children as young as 5 months old. An agent who has worked for Border Patrol for 13 years — and who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the situation — confirmed reports by immigration lawyers that agents have asked migrants who are teenagers to help care for the younger children.
In a report released earlier this week covering facilities in a different part of Texas, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General urged the agency to “take immediate steps to alleviate dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention of children and adults in the Rio Grande Valley.” The alert adds to one the office already issued in May about dangerous overcrowding in the El Paso area, where the Clint facilities are located.
After touring CBP facilities last week, the incoming president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Sara Goza, warned that, “More children will continue to die if we do not make sure that every child who passes through federal custody is seen by a pediatric-trained medical professional,” NBC News reported.
Goza noted that “the first thing that hit me when we walked in the door was the smell.” She added, “It was the smell of sweat, urine and feces.”
Donald Trump responded to the Times report by calling it a “Big Media Con Job.”
In a Twitter thread on Sunday, Trump said, “The Fake News Media, in particular the Failing @nytimes, is writing phony and exaggerated accounts of the Border Detention Centers.”
Trump said members of the Border Patrol “have been doing a great job.” He then blamed Democrats for the situation, saying they “won’t change the Loopholes and Asylum.”