What is happening at the U.S.-Mexico border today is a humanitarian nightmare, and it’s getting worse every day, with the U.S. government now running out of space to shelter children who have been separated from their families at the border, NBC News reported on Monday.
Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services will soon tour three Texas military bases in their search for more space to house the children coming across the border, according to the network. Undocumented children are being kept at U.S. border detention centers—many of which are privately run—for longer periods of time, NBC also reported.
Many of these children are very young (emphasis added):
As of Sunday, nearly 300 of the 550 children currently in custody at U.S. border stations had spent more than 72 hours there, the time limit for immigrants of any age to be held in the government’s temporary facilities. Almost half of those 300 children are younger than 12, according to the document, meaning they are classified by the Department of Homeland Security as “tender age children.”
The stations, run by the Border Patrol and meant only as the first stop for children detained at the border, often lack adequate bedding or separate sleeping rooms for children.
Here is what’s happening: Families with children are flooding across the border, often fleeing violence in their home countries. The U.S. government, in turn, is separating parents from children at the border, and putting migrant children—many of whom are under the age of 12—in border detention facilities while their parents are prosecuted en masse.
The public still knows precious little about what life is like for children staying inside these detention facilities. (Splinter reached out for comment from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and will update this post if we hear back.) Many immigrants who have stayed in these Border Patrol facilities have reported squalid living conditions and freezing temperatures inside the warehouse-like facilities.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has defended the practice of separating parents and family members from children at the border, which comes as part of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” border policy. “If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” Sessions said in a speech last month. “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”
Over the weekend, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley traveled to Texas to try to investigate conditions at an immigration detention center for children. Officials working at the facility called the police on him. A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Human Services told Splinter that, “Thankfully for the safety, security and dignity of the children being cared for there, they were denied access.” On Monday afternoon, the White House got involved, putting out a statement cravenly tying Merkley to a woman the administration claimed was sexually assaulted by an “illegal alien” in his state.
This discussion started by talking about the safety of migrant children staying in secretive detention facilities, and ended with the White House once again stoking fears about gang members flooding into the country. At least six people have died while in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody since October, including a trans woman who died after suffering symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration, and complications from HIV, according to the agency. What does this type of governance look like to you?