Hundreds of children have been moved from a Border Patrol facility near El Paso after reports surfaced that they spent nearly a month living with substandard food, water and sanitation.
Many of the children were sent to another El Paso facility, Border Patrol Station 1, where they remain in Border Patrol custody until they can be placed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, according to NBC News. U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar told the Associated Press, which first reported about the conditions in Clint, that just 30 children remain there.
"It's not necessarily a better situation, and in fact could be worse," said Warren Binford, a lawyer who visited Clint last week. "Where these really children need to go is back to their families."
Several attorneys who visited the station said they found at least 15 children sick with the flu, some of whom were being kept in medical quarantine. They described seeing a sick and diaperless 2-year-old boy whose “shirt was smeared in mucus.” Three girls ages 10 to 15 were taking turns watching him.
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More than 144,000 migrants were apprehended or denied entry to the country last month — the largest number in 13 years. More than half of them were families with children, and about 8% were unaccompanied minors. The Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is run by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and handles minors, has been swamped by the influx.
A slew of lawyers and translators have been meeting with children and young mothers at facilities across the state this month, including Florida-based attorney Toby Gialluca, who said migrants she spoke with told her the water “tasted like bleach” at another Border Patrol facility in McAllen.
Gialluca also described seeing a 16-year-old mother whose 8-month-old daughter wore only a diaper and a pastel tank top covered in “filth.” The mother told the attorney that guards took away her backpack full of baby clothes and medicine and sent the pair to sleep outside on the concrete.