Judge Orders Medical Professionals Into Child Migrant Detention Centers

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After reports of sanitation and safety concerns, a federal judge has ordered US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to allow health professionals and doctors into detention centers that are holding migrant children.US District Judge Dolly M. Gee asked that an independent monitor step in to make sure the conditions inside the facilities are addressed immediately. The judge reportedly gave the monitor until July 12 to “file a joint status report regarding their mediation efforts and what has been done to address post haste the conditions described,” according to a court filing obtained by CNN.

"Children are held for weeks in deplorable conditions, without access to soap, clean water, showers, clean clothing, toilets, toothbrushes, adequate nutrition or adequate sleep. The children, including infants and expectant mothers, are dirty, cold, hungry, and sleep-deprived," the court filing obtained by the news station reportedly read. The judge’s order will have medical professionals inspect CBP facilities in Texas’ El Paso and Rio Grande Valley sectors, according to The New York Times. In the order, Gee stated that the conditions inside the facilities violated the Flores Agreement, which is a policy that states that migrant children must be housed in facilities that meet certain standards, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

“The parties need not use divining tools to extrapolate from those orders what does or does not constitute noncompliance,” Gee wrote in the order, according to The New York Times. “The Court has made that clear.”On June 26, a group of lawyers filed a temporary restraining order with Gee against the federal government due to the unsanitary conditions in the immigration detention facilities that were housing children, the Los Angeles Times previously reported. The restraining order obtained by the publication ordered CBP to “immediately start processing children for release to parents and relatives,” as well as give them proper access to clean water, food, and other basic necessities, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“The conditions within which [children] are held could be compared to torture facilities,” wrote Dr. Dolly Lucio Sevier, a doctor who visited one of the facilities, according to the publication. “That is, extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food.” Earlier this month, Department of Justice senior litigation counsel Sarah Fabian testified in front of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that providing proper conditions for detained migrant children did not include things like soap or toothbrushes, NBC News previously reported.Detention centers in Texas are not the only facilities that are reportedly providing improper conditions for migrant children. Earlier this month, lawyers filed a 705-page document in California stating that unaccompanied minors living at a facility in Homestead, Florida were living in a “prison-like” environment, the Miami Herald reported.

The lawyers stated that the 2,350 children in the detention center were living in psychologically harmful conditions. Attorney Neha Desai told the publication that she spoke with a 14-year-old girl from Honduras who has been detained for over eight months. She told Desai that she was separated from her aunt after they had crossed the border.“The girl was never told where she was being taken or why,” Desai told the Miami Herald. “Her aunt was placed in ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] detention elsewhere while her niece was taken to Homestead…. She started to cut herself.”

Homestead was opened by the Obama administration but was phased out, according to the publication. It was reopened and then expanded by the Trump administration in 2018. The facility is not licensed and does not have to be inspected by authorities, the Miami Herald reported.

“These children are battling a sense of deep helplessness and sheer frustration and confusion on why they don’t know anything or on why they are still detained,” Desai told the publication. “It’s profoundly distressing for them and something needs to be done.”

In May, the Trump administration revealed that a sixth migrant child had died while in government custody. US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) spokesperson Mark Weber previously told CBS News in a statement that the 10-year-old girl from El Salvador died on September 29, 2018, and had a history of congenital heart defects. The girl was reportedly in a “medically fragile” state when she was brought to the Office of Refugee Resettlement facility in San Antonio, Texas in March 2018, according to the news station.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.