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How children live inside cramped immigration detention centers.

Three days after officials revealed that 2,000 children have been ripped from their families under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration crackdown, heartbreaking stories have emerged from inside the crammed detention centers. More than 1,100 detainees were being held in an old warehouse in McAllen, Texas, Sunday, separated within chain-linked fences — including one cage...
Time: 12:25     Date: 18.06.2018
Last US News: How children live inside cramped immigration detention centers. NY Post 24 - US News

More than 1,100 detainees were being held in an old warehouse in McAllen, Texas, Sunday, separated within chain-linked fences — including one cage that held 20 children.

Nearly 200 people were minors unaccompanied by a parent, according to Border Patrol officials. Another 500 were considered “family units” made up of parents and children.

In one of the cages, a teenager cared for a 4-year-old girl she didn’t know because the tot’s aunt was somewhere else in the center.

“She had to teach other kids in the cell to change her diaper,” said Michelle Brane, the director of migrant rights at the Women’s Refugee Commission who toured the facility Friday.

The child and aunt were eventually reunited by agents after an attorney started asking questions. Part of the problem was that the girl didn’t speak Spanish – she spoke K’iche, a language indigenous to Guatemala.

“She was so traumatized that she wasn’t talking,” Brane said about the little girl. “She was just curled up in a little ball.”

People who’ve been taken into custody sit in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas.AP

Authorities said the detainees at the center are grouped by age, gender and family status: girls aged 17 and under, boys aged 17 and under, mothers with children and fathers with children, NBC reported.

Brane, who spent a few hours at the center known as “Ursula” for the road it’s on, said she witnessed officials scold a group of 5-year-olds for playing in their cage. One of the boys was more withdrawn and quietly clutched a photocopy of his mother’s ID card.

There are no toys or books in the 77,000-square-foot facility, which a Department of Homeland Security official called the “epicenter” of the Trump administration’s controversial immigration policy, according to NBC.

“The government is literally taking kids away from their parents and leaving them in inappropriate conditions,” Brane said. “If a parent left a child in a cage with no supervision with other 5-year-olds, they’d be held accountable.”

A handful of reporters and lawmakers were allowed to tour the facility on Father’s Day Sunday. They were not permitted to interview any of the detainees or take photos.

Many left feeling disturbed by what they saw.

“Those kids inside who have been separated from their parents are already being traumatized,” said Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon. “It doesn’t matter whether the floor is swept and the bedsheets tucked in tight.”

Photos released by US Customs and Border Protection show mattresses and silver emergency thermal blankets strewn across the floors and dozens of adults sitting on benches lining the metal cages.

People who’ve been taken into custody lay down in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas.AP

Parents are separated from their children when they’re brought into processing to leave the facility, when they learn whether they’ll be prosecuted for crossing the border illegally. They then receive a “tear sheet” informing them of that decision and how they might reunite with their kids again.

Agents running the Ursula holding center said all the detainees are given adequate food, access to showers and laundered clothes and medical care.

On Friday, administration officials said about 2,000 children have been separated from their families over a six-week period ending in May.

Dr. Colleen Kraft, who heads the American Academy of Pediatrics, also visited a small shelter in Texas recently.

She said she spotted a toddler about 2 years old crying hysterically and pounding her fists inside the 60-bed facility, which she declined to identify.

Staffers tried to soothe the child, who’d been taken from her mother the night before, but weren’t allowed to pick her up or hold or hug her.

Staff aren’t allowed to touch the children there, as part of the center’s rules, Kraft said.

“The stress is overwhelming,” she said. “The focus needs to be on the welfare of these children, absent of politics.”

AP

Under US law, children in detention centers are required to be turned over within three days to shelters funded by the Department of Health and Human Services.

But lawmakers said some immigrants at Ursula told them they’d been there for as many as seven days, CNN reported.

“It’s appalling. It’s un-American,” Rep. Peter Welch, who was among the group of politicians to tour the center, told Vermont Public Radio. “We can have debates about border security, but we can’t hold hostage the fate of innocent children.”

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