What’s life like for kids who get caught crossing into the United States illegally?
Pretty bad, if you judge by photos published by Breitbart last week. Several of the images show children being held in crowded concrete rooms, with bodies practically piled on top of one another.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story. An exclusive video obtained by ABC News takes you inside a facility used to house migrant kids and shows a much different environment.
Children eating fresh fruit, studying English and playing outside with their friends - those are all scenes included in a video released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is legally obligated to provide housing and healthcare to certain minors apprehended at the border.
Now, there is a key difference between the Breitbart photos and HHS video. The disturbing photos published last week are likely U.S. Border Patrol processing centers. Kids are only supposed to be held in those centers for 72 hours, although they are sometimes kept there longer, according to a White House official.
From the processing centers, children are transferred into the custody of HHS, who might place them in the facility like the one shown in the video above. That facility, which is located in Texas near the U.S.-Mexico border, can house about 100 kids ages 7 to 17.
But a rapid rise in the number of child migrants crossing into the U.S. from Central America over the last several years has taxed the system. The existing space managed by HHS can’t satisfy the demand, senior White House officials have said, and children are being transferred to military bases, which are serving as shelters. Earlier this month, President Obama called the influx of child migrants an “urgent humanitarian situation.”
So that means that while video shown above give us some insight into what standard housing might look like for child migrants in the custody of the federal government, it doesn’t show us what the conditions are like in Border Patrol processing centers or what things are like in the overflow shelters that have been set up in places like Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio. The federal government has yet to provide video footage of those facilities.
Ted Hesson was formerly the immigration editor at Fusion, covering the issue from Washington, D.C. He also writes about drug laws and (occasionally) baseball. On the side: guitars, urban biking, and fiction.