Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Last week I was on the Flores inspection team that visited the CBP facility in Clint, Texas. The media has done a great job covering our findings. Although I have spoken with several reporters, honestly, I'm still processing what I saw and heard. We were permitted to interview minors detained at this border patrol processing. After three days of detailed conversations with many detainees, I came away disgusted and appalled. The declarations of minors prepared and collected by the team will be used put an end to what is happening at Clint. Yesterday, I was heartened when I heard that the vast majority of the children were being moved to ORR facilities where the process of release could begin in seriousness. But today, it was reported that 100 of the children were being moved back to Clint because ORR lacked the bed space. That development is truly disheartening.
I had conversations with several teen mothers with infants as young as five and nine months. I also had individual conversations with 5 and 8 year old boys, three sets of siblings—a 14 year old girl and her 10 year old brother, brothers, ages 12 and 4, and another sister and brother, ages 15 and 13. Several cried as they talked about the conditions and missing their parents. They cried, I teared up. However, I cried hard two times while observing children across the room being interviewed by other team members. One six-year-old girl, alone, began crying. She had been separated from an aunt at the border by CBP officials days earlier. As she cried in the middle of the interview, the attorney working with her took the girl by the hand and walked over to a teen detainee who was holding a two-year-old. It turned out that the teen girl—who was not a mother—had been comforting the toddler and the six-year-old for days out of a sense of kindness. The next day, another attorney was interviewing two siblings—a boy and a girl. The girl, a 7-year-old, was crying unconsolably. The attorney—a woman—picked up the girl to hold and hug her for several minutes.
Because these are minors, they are not supposed to be held by border patrol officials for more than 72 hours. However, the team met many children who had been detained for two to three weeks. Over 350 children were detained at the Clint facility on Monday June 17. Many of the children were unbathed and dirty. Their clothes wreaked; their hair unwashed. Children as young as 2, 3 and 4 years old had been separated from a parent, aunt, or uncle at the border. They were housed in cramped rooms with older children—some of whom cared for the younger children out of kindness. Many of the children have the flu. Two infants were so sick (vomiting, fever, diarrhea) that they were rushed to the hospital for emergency care. Everyone received the same meals day after day that contained no vegetables or fruits. The meals were no different for nursing mothers. Some children reported that they were allowed to go outside and play daily for about 30 minutes; others said they were allowed to go outside only every 2 or 3 days.
ORR is asking for more money to open more space and beds. However, they should be freeing up capacity by doing their processing more quickly. Moreover, these children should not be detained in the first place. The vast majority arrived at the border with a relative (e.g., aunt, uncle). They should not have been separated. They should have been kept together, processed, and allowed to go to their final destinations. In my experience, they will appear at their proceedings, and the government should not worry about folks absconding. TRAC reports that in San Francisco, for example, there is a 98% appearance rate.
The inhumanity of what's going on at the border must be stopped.