Prisoners in the United States in my estimation are treated better than migrants. If dogs were kenneled in the overcrowded, unhealthy conditions we observed at the Border Patrol Station, the Humane Society would immediately shut it down. The sheer number of people packed into cells forced the men to take turns lying down. Through soundproof windows, they motioned that they had not showered or brushed their teeth for 40 days, that the lights never go off, that they were sick or needed water. Though they are only supposed to be held in this facility for 72 hours, some of the men told us they had been detained for up to 60 days.
The families, women and children were held down the street at Ursula, a retrofitted warehouse with large cages made from chain-link fencing. From behind a partial concrete wall, the only sounds we could hear were the rushing of the air conditioning and the cries of small children and babies. The temperature in Ursula is much colder than the 100-plus degree weather outside, a shock to many of the migrants’ systems after their arduous journeys. Lights shine overhead 24 hours a day while families huddle between mats and mylar blankets on concrete floors. Agents there told us that illnesses — including bacterial meningitis, flu, typhus and scabies — spread through the facility and recommended we wear face masks during our visit.
We spoke to many parents with children, including a man whose infant son is blind and suffers from a neurological condition. The baby’s eyes were milky and rolled back in his head while his dad showed us an envelope with medical paperwork. Another man who cradled his infant daughter said she might have the flu. She was listless, flushed, her knuckles white as she clung to her father. Another woman holding her toddler son asked us to find her husband and baby, from whom she had been separated during their migration north. Everywhere we turned, we saw anguish, fear, confusion and despair.