Separation at the border: children wait in cages at south Texas warehouse

US Border Patrol permits reporters to visit but does not allow portraits or interviews at holding facility housing children as young as four

Inside an age-old warehouse in south Texas, hundreds of children wait away from their parents in a series of enclosures created by metal fencing.

One cage had 20 children inside. Scattered about are bottles of water, bags of chips and big foil sheets intended to serve as blankets.

One teenager told an advocate who visited she was helping care for a young child she didn’t know because the child’s aunt was somewhere else in the facility. She said she had to show others in her cell how to change the girl’s diaper.

On Sunday, the US Border Patrol permitted reporters to briefly visit the facility where it holds families arrested at the southern margin, responding to new criticism and demonstrations over the Trump administration’s” zero tolerance” policy and resulting breakup of households.

Rep. Peter Welch (@ PeterWelch)

I read chain connection cages full of unaccompanied children. They sat on metal benches and gazed straight ahead silently

June 17, 2018

More than 1,100 people were inside the large, dark facility that was is split into separate wings for unaccompanied children, adults on their own and the women and parents with children. The enclosures in each wing open into common fields, to apply portable restrooms. The overhead lighting stay on around the clock.

Reporters were not allowed by agents to interview any of the detainees or take photos.

Nearly 2,000 infants have been taken from their parents since the prosecutor general Jeff Sessions announced the implementation of policies, which directs homeland security officials to refer all cases of illegal entry into the US for prosecution.

Church groups and human rights advocates have sharply blamed the implementation of policies, calling it inhumane.

Stories have spread of children being torn from their parents’ limbs, and mothers not being able to find where their children have gone. A group of congressional lawmakers visited the same facility on Sunday and were set to visit a longer-term shelter comprising around 1,500 children- many of whom were separated from their parents.

” Those children inside who have been separated from their parents are already being traumatized ,” said here Democratic senator Jeff Merkley, of Oregon, who was denied entry earlier this month to children’s shelter.” It doesn’t matter whether the storey is swept and the bedsheets folded in tight .”

People who’ve been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States, sit in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas, Sunday, 17 June. Photo: AP

In Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, the busiest hallway for people trying to enter the US, Border Patrol officials argue that they have to crack down on migrants and separate adults from infants as a discouraging to others.

” When you exempt a group of people from the existing legislation … that creates a depict ,” told Manuel Padilla, the Border Patrol’s chief agent here.” That makes the trends right here .”

Agents running the holding facility- generally known as “Ursula” for the name of the street it’s on- said everyone incarcerated is given adequate food, access to showers and laundered clothes, and medical care.

People are supposed to move through the facility speedily. Under US law, children are required to be turned over within three days to shelters funded by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Padilla mentioned agents in the Rio Grande Valley have allowed families with children under the age of five to stay together in most cases.

An advocate who expended several hours in the facility on Friday said she was deeply troubled by what she found. Michelle Brane, the director of migrant rights at the Women’s Refugee Commission, met a 16 -year-old girl who had been taking care of a young girl for three days. The teen and others in their cage envisioned the girl was two years old.

” She had to teach other children in the cell to change her nappy ,” Brane told.

Brane used to say after an attorney started to ask questions, agents determined the girl’s aunt and reunited them. It turned out that the girl was actually four. Portion of the problem was that she did not speak Spanish but K’iche, a language indigenous to Guatemala.

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

Brane said she also assured officials at the facility berated a group of five-year-olds for playing around in their enclosure, telling them to settle down. There are no toys or volumes. But one boy nearby wasn’t playing with the rest. According to Brane, he was quiet, clutching a piece of paper that was a photocopy of his mother’s ID card.

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

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