Over 100 children have been moved back to a Clint, Texas, border station where independent monitors called conditions “unconscionable,” a Customs and Border Protection official said Tuesday.
The Clint facility and others have been heavily criticized after lawyers, doctors and advocates warned of what they called major health and hygiene problems.
“The kids had colds and were sick and said they didn’t have access to soap to wash their hands. It was an alcohol-based cleanser. Some kids who were detained for two to three weeks had only one or two opportunities to shower,” Clara Long, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, has said of the Clint facility.
“One said they hadn’t showered in three weeks. Hygiene and living conditions like this creates a risk of spreading infectious disease. It makes me very concerned about the public health emergency.”
Recent allegations of perilous conditions in Clint have also been referred to Office of the Inspector General and Customs and Border Protection Office of Professional Responsibility, the CBP official said Tuesday.
Officials conceded that children should not be held in CBP custody, saying that the agency’s facilities were designed decades ago to largely accommodate single adults for a short period of time. The crush of migrants at the southern border, however, has strained the agency’s resources.
“We completely agree with some of the reporting that’s gone out in that (unaccompanied children) should not be held in our custody. We do not want them in our custody, our facilities are not built for that,” an official said in a call with reporters Tuesday. Yet the official disputed some of the allegations, including access to soap and diapers. The official said soap and water is continuously available.
Nearly 250 children are planned are being moved out of the facility, Health and Human Services spokesperson Evelyn Stauffer said in a statement Monday. Unaccompanied children are intended to be transferred to the care of HHS, which is responsible for their care while placing them with a sponsor in the United States.
Stauffer acknowledged that unaccompanied migrant children are “waiting too long in CBP facilities that are not designed to care for children,” a result, she says, of the “unprecedented” number of children arriving.
As of June 1 this fiscal year, Border Patrol has arrested more than 377,000 family units, over 60,000 unaccompanied children, and over 226,000 single adults.
This story is breaking and will be updated.