The Biden administration continues to proclaim success because it managed to reduce the number of migrants kids stuck in CBP detention centers along the border. But as Rep. Cuellar has pointed out, all the administration has really done is move kids from one set of tents run by CBP to another set run by HHS. Are the conditions in those facilities any better? That’s arguable according to an Associated Press story published today.
Confidential data obtained by the AP shows the number of migrant children in government custody more than doubled in the past two months, and this week the federal government was housing around 21,000 kids, from toddlers to teens. A facility at Fort Bliss, a U.S. Army post in El Paso, Texas, had more than 4,500 children as of Monday. Attorneys, advocates and mental health experts say that while some shelters are safe and provide adequate care, others are endangering children’s health and safety.
The key word in that last sentence is “adequate.” Most of these 21,000 kids are being kept in sites that don’t guarantee much of anything beyond food and a bed.
Part of the government’s plan to manage thousands of children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border involves about a dozen unlicensed emergency facilities inside military installations, stadiums and convention centers that skirt state regulations and don’t require traditional legal oversight.
Inside the facilities, called Emergency Intake Sites, children aren’t guaranteed access to education, recreational opportunities or legal counsel.
A child psychiatrist who works with these kids says the situation, especially in the mass shelters holding more than 1,000 kids, is bad and getting worse to the point she expects some children kept under these conditions will die.
“The system has been very dysfunctional, and it’s getting worse,” said Amy Cohen, a child psychiatrist and executive director of the nonprofit Every. Last. One., which works to help immigrant families fleeing violence in Central America. Although there have been large numbers of children arriving in the U.S. for years, Cohen said she’s never seen the situation as bad as it is today…
“The children are coming out sick, with COVID, infested with lice, and it will not surprise me to see children dying as a consequence, as we saw during the Trump years,” Cohen said. “The Biden administration is feverishly putting up these pop-up detention facilities, many of which have no experience working with children.”
But we can’t see the conditions in these facilities four ourselves because the Biden administration, citing COVID, isn’t letting the media in. HHS won’t even say what the standards of care are supposed to be.
HHS declined to say whether there are any legally enforceable standards for caring for children housed at the emergency sites or how they are being monitored. The Biden administration has allowed very limited access to news media once children are brought into facilities, citing the coronavirus pandemic and privacy restrictions.
Last month an Emergency Intake Site in Houston that had been housing around 450 migrant girls was abruptly closed. An immigrant advocacy group had toured the site beforehand and said the conditions were terrible.
Espinosa, who had toured the center, said the girls were being housed in a warehouse.
“There was really no space for social distancing … they were only allowed to get up from their cot to use the restroom as well as to shower,” Espinosa said.
“Everything that was being brought in was temporary. The showers were temporary, they were bringing in temporary restrooms, so this space was not equipped to house anybody, much less children,” Espinosa said.
I’ll close with this video from ABC 13 in Houston which includes part of Espinosa’s comments. Conditions in these facilities could be “adequate” or they could be pretty bad. We don’t really know because the Biden administration isn’t letting us see what’s really going on. Usually you don’t try to hide things from the media unless there’s a good reason to do that and the COVID excuse isn’t a good reason.