More and more horror stories are emerging about the abusive conditions migrant children are being subjected to at U.S. Border Patrol facilities. The latest news from McAllen, TX, is equally devastating, confirming once again that the U.S. government is committing human rights abuses against migrant children on a scale practically unimaginable a few years ago.
HuffPost reported Friday that lawyers had to intervene to force officials to hospitalize four toddlers, all under 3 years old, who were so sick that some refused to eat. One 2-year-old was “completely unresponsive” and her eyes had rolled back in her head. All of the children were being held at the Ursula processing center in McAllen.
The toddlers had fevers, coughs, diarrhea, and were vomiting, the attorneys told the news site.
The lawyers feared that if they had not shown up at the facility, the sick kids would have received zero medical attention and potentially died. The Trump administration has come under fire for its treatment ― and its alleged neglect ― of migrants who have been crossing the southern border in record numbers. The result is overcrowded facilities, slow medical care and in some instances, deaths.
Attorney Toby Gialluca called the situation an “intentional disregard for the well-being of children.” She added: “The guards continue to dehumanize these people and treat them worse than we would treat animals.”
This is all awful. And had it not been for a group of lawyers demanding to check on conditions at these processing centers, aka concentration camps, the public wouldn’t know about any of this.
The lawyers have been conducting interviews with hundreds of children at three Border Patrol locations in Texas. They were able to do this because of a legal agreement called the Flores settlement, which outlines mandated conditions for migrant children and families.
At a facility near El Paso, lawyers told the Associated Press they found a 2-year-old locked in detention, girls as young as 10 caring for a sick and underfed toddler, and a general lack of adequate food, water, and sanitation.
Fifteen children under 12 have the flu at that location, and 10 others are quarantined.
About that toddler being cared for by other children: Visiting lawyers were unable to determine who the boy even is. “A Border Patrol agent came in our room with a 2-year-old boy and asked us, ‘Who wants to take care of this little boy?’” one of the girls told the attorneys, according to the AP.
One law professor said she saw an 8-year-old taking care of a 4-year-old with matted hair.
“In my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention, I have never heard of this level of inhumanity,” Holly Cooper, co-director of the University of California, Davis’ Immigration Law Clinic, told the AP.
This follows reporting that Trump administration attorneys argued in federal court this week that they aren’t required to provide basic necessities like soap, toothbrushes, and a warm bed to migrant children who are detained after crossing the southern U.S. border.
The government is appealing a 2017 ruling that conditions for child migrants in detention violate the 1997 Flores settlement.
According to Courthouse News, the panel of federal judges hearing the appeal this week were incredulous after listening to arguments by Trump administration attorneys.
“Are you arguing seriously that you do not read the agreement as requiring you to do anything other than what I just described: cold all night long, lights on all night long, sleeping on concrete and you’ve got an aluminum foil blanket?” U.S. Circuit Judge William Fletcher asked Justice Department attorney Sarah Fabian. “I find that inconceivable that the government would say that that is safe and sanitary.”
More from HuffPost:
Gialluca met one 16-year-old mother whose 8-month-old baby was sick with the flu and forced to sleep outside for four days at the McAllen Border Patrol station. The mother said the guards took the clothing off the baby’s back, leaving her in a diaper, and forced them to sleep on concrete without a blanket.
A sick 2-year-old girl was shivering in a T-shirt and had shallow breathing, according to Mike Fassio, a Seattle-based immigration attorney who visited Ursula.
Gialluca noted that they had only interviewed a small group of the children, and in addition to the four hospitalized toddlers, she believes many more children likely need hospitalization.