U.S. Customs and Border Protection is in the middle of a full-scale meltdown.
Less than a day after the Trump administration announced it would move 300 children stationed at a cramped, unsanitary Texas border patrol facility with inadequate food and health conditions, over a hundred of these children have reportedly since been moved back to the inadequate shelter, the New York Times reported.
Amid the report, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s acting commissioner, John Sanders, is expected to resign in the coming weeks, a federal official also told the Times. Sanders took over for now acting DHS Sec. Kevin McAleenan as commissioner when he replaced the former Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen in April.
In a letter to CBP employees obtained by CNN reporters Geneva Sands and Priscilla Alvarez, Sanders told them that he would “leave it to you to determine whether I was successful” in leading the agency. (Mind you, several children died while he oversaw the CBP.) A DHS official, however, told the Washington Post’s Nick Miroff that Sanders resignation wasn’t related to the blowback that CBP and DHS has received over the terrible conditions at the Clint, TX, facility.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement previously told the AP on Monday that 249 of the children at the Clint facility would be placed in the agency’s shelter network by Tuesday. Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar, who represents El Paso, also told the AP that other children were moved to a tent detention facility in northern El Paso called Border Patrol Station 1. According to a Times report on Monday, 30 children remained in the Clint facility after the relocations.
A CBP official told the Times that “changes put into place by the agency had alleviated overcrowding in Clint, and allowed the return of more than 100 children there.” However, the spokesman also said that children returned to Clint weren’t given more resources.
Alarmingly, the official also said that he didn’t believe the allegations of unsanitary conditions, frozen food, and lacking toiletries reported by lawyers and the AP.
In a statement to Splinter, an Administration for Children and Families spokesperson said that the 249 children scheduled to be transferred to the ORR should now be in the care of the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the ORR. The transfer is late for children who say they were at the Clint facility for at least a month, far longer than the 20 days allowed by the Flores settlement.
We’ve reached out to CBP and Rep. Escobar’s office for comment, and will update this post if we hear back.
Meanwhile, children relocated to the tent camp may not be faring any better. Lawyer Clara Long, who had previously spoken to other children at the Border Patrol Station 1 facility, told AP on Monday that children told her that they were cold, that sleeping conditions were inadequate, and that they hadn’t been given toothbrushes.
As Congress races to get more emergency funding to the border without putting other immigrant families in danger, CBP’s runaround on children taken from their families and failing leadership is surely exacerbating the crisis.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
Update, 5:52 p.m. ET: A CBP spokesperson sent Splinter a statement saying the agency transferred the children back to the Clint facility “to streamline transfer to HHS and accommodate separate holding areas based on age and gender.”
“U.S. Border Patrol previously carried out existing contingency plans to manage the number of unaccompanied children (UACs) in custody by expanding holding capacity to additional facilities in El Paso Sector. Due to the transfer of a large number of these children to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in the past few days, El Paso Sector is currently resuming use of the Clint Station as the consolidated UAC holding facility to streamline transfer to HHS and accommodate separate holding areas based on age and gender. CBP continues to utilize all available resources to prioritize and care for children in our custody and facilitate their expeditious transfer to HHS custody.”