Hundreds of children detained by U.S. Customs and Border Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security at a Texas detention center are being moved to other facilities, after scathing media reports shed light on “appalling” conditions there. Many of these children are being held while DHS and ICE process asylum applications of adults who brought them to the US.
Reports of the conditions at the Texas facility describe it as unsanitary and highlight the fact that the children held there do not have access to basic hygiene necessities like soap and toothbrushes. DHS and ICE are not designed as child care groups and Congressional funding to alleviate the situation at the border has been tied up by a standstill between Democrats and Republicans clashing over the federal establishment of controlled border access, or “Trump’s Wall.”
The holding facility in Texas was built to house around 100 people for short periods of time. Due to increased detention following massive increases in unauthorized border crossings, the facility was holding nearly 300 children, many of whom had been detained for weeks, and some even months.
Under regulations established with the Flores Settlement, detained children are expected to be released to the care of DHS within 72 hours. The sheer number of children in custody now has strained department resources, however, and the unsanitary holding facility appears to be the latest evidence of insufficient facilities to accommodate the influx of detainees.
Investigators and reporters with the Associated Press visited the facility and described deplorable conditions. Many of the 60 children they spoke with had not bathed or brushed their teeth in weeks. Very little adult supervision was provided, and some children as young as seven or eight were charged with caring for younger children.
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are blaming Congressional Democrats for contributing to the unsanitary conditions. According to Pence, Democrats have stymied attempts to move forward on a spending plan that would allocate $2.88 billion to US Customs and Border Protection.
Pence said in an interview earlier this year that Democrats had “refused to increase bed space in the appropriations bill.”
“They continue to delay efforts on additional humanitarian support,” Pence added.
Speaking with Chuck Todd on NBC’s Meet the Press this weekend, President Trump said “if the Democrats would change the asylum laws and the loopholes, which they refuse to do because they think it’s good politics, everything would be solved immediately. But they refuse to do it.”
“The Democrats aren’t even approving giving us money,” Trump said in the interview. “Where is the money? You know what? The Democrats are holding up the humanitarian aid.”
Critics say unwillingness to arrive at a spending plan goes both ways. President Trump has insisted that any funding for border control includes funding to establish a border wall to prevent irregular migration, a position Democrats in Congress uniformly oppose.
It is unclear where the children are being relocated to at this time. At least some of the children have been moved to a holding facility near El Paso, Texas that is typically used for detained adults.
Acting Customs and Border Protection commissioner John Sanders announced his resignation Tuesday from his role as the top immigration enforcement official, effective July 5, in the wake of heightened scrutiny of these conditions.