A senior government official said he is proud of the medical care being given to migrant children in the custody of US Customs and Border Protection.
“I’m a doctor and a parent,” he said. “I’m very comfortable in my own skin, and I would do for these folks what I would want done for my own children.”
“I take care of everyone in our care like I would want my own children taken care of.”
The official works for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the border protection agency. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not an official spokesman for the department.
“The medical care has been good so far and I’m proud of what we’ve done,” he said.
Other physicians disagree.
Since September, four children have died in or just after they were released from CBP custody.
From October 2018 through May, more than 230,000 children have been apprehended across the southwest border. Of those, about 56,000 were unaccompanied children and about 170,000 were children traveling with family members.
A pediatrician caring for migrant children at an El Paso hospital said CBP’s medical screening for children in its custody is “absolutely and unequivocally inadequate.”
The government doctor, however, said the CPB is “catching the things we need to catch.”
He said a Border Patrol agent or law enforcement official administers a health questionnaire to every migrant. The questions include how they are feeling, if they’re taking any medications, and if they have symptoms of communicable diseases such as the flu, mumps or measles.
In addition, all children under age 17 receive a medical assessment, which includes a physical exam, from a physician assistant, nurse practitioner or physician.
He added that the goal is for all children to get that assessment soon after apprehension.
“It’s taking some time to get that up and running, but that’s the plan,” he said.
Dr. Colleen Kraft, immediate past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said she was disappointed that CBP has not taken her group up on its offer to send pediatricians to train CBP medical staff.
“We have pediatricians who would volunteer to go to the border tomorrow and work with these children and advise medical personnel and train them,” Kraft said. “That’s still our ask, but it’s gotten nowhere.”
Dr. Sara Goza, the current president of the pediatricians’ group, went on a tour of two CBP facilities last week, and said she “did not encounter a single pediatrician at either one.”
The senior government official said CBP has a pediatrician advising the agency part-time. That pediatrician works for the Department of Homeland Security.
He added that there are more than 140 medical teams working at the border, about 40 of which include a physician. He said he did not know how many of those physicians were pediatricians.