CLINT, Texas (AP) — Lawmakers on Friday were calling for swift change after reports this week of more than 250 infants, children and teens being held inside a windowless Border Patrol station, struggling to care for each other with inadequate food, water and sanitation.
It's a scene that is being repeated at other immigration facilities overwhelmed with too many migrant children and nowhere to put them.
"This facility wasn't even on our radar before we came down here," said law professor Warren Binford, a member of the team that interviewed dozens of children this week detained in Clint, about a half-hour drive from El Paso. Fifteen children had the flu, another 10 were quarantined.
At another Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas, attorney Toby Gialluca said all the children she talked to last week were very sick with high fevers, coughing and wearing soiled clothes crusted with mucus and dirt after their long trip north.
"Everyone is sick. Everyone. They're using their clothes to wipe mucus off the children, wipe vomit off the children. Most of the little children are not fully clothed," she said.
Gialluca said migrant teens in McAllen told her they were offered frozen ham sandwiches and rotten food.
At both detention facilities, the children told attorneys that guards instructed girls as young as 8 to care for the babies and toddlers.
State and federal elected officials Friday demanded change about conditions at Clint, McAllen and other Border Patrol stations. There was plenty of angry fingerpointing as well.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott slammed Congress as "a group of reprobates" for failing to provide adequate border security funding.
"Every child who is not being taken care of adequately at the border, Congress is an accomplice to any harm they suffer," he said.
Oregon's Sen. Jeff Merkley pushed the Department of Homeland Security to publish a remediation plan "to immediately end these abuses." He gave them a deadline of July 12, tweeting: "Children are being held in appalling and unacceptable conditions. Detained children are being left to care for each other - including, in one case, a two-year-old who was left with no diapers. @DHSgov needs to tell us what their plan is to fix this, NOW."
Republican Congressman Will Hurd, whose district includes Clint, said the tragic conditions "further demonstrates the immediate need to reform asylum laws and provide supplemental funding to address the humanitarian crisis at our border."
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