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Migrant Children Facing Mistreatment at Texas Border Facility

Lawyers warn that kids are taking care of kids

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Migrant, Children, Texas
FILE - Migrants, mainly from Central America, guide their children through the entrance of a World War II-era bomber hanger in Deming, N.M., May 22, 2019. Appeals court judges will hear arguments over conditions in holding facilities near the border. VOA

A 2-year-old boy locked in detention wants to be held all the time. A few girls, ages 10 to 15, say they’ve been doing their best to feed and soothe the clingy toddler who was handed to them by a guard days ago. Lawyers warn that kids are taking care of kids, and there’s inadequate food, water and sanitation for the 250 infants, children and teens at the Border Patrol station.

The bleak portrait emerged Thursday after a legal team interviewed 60 children at the facility near El Paso that has become the latest place where attorneys say young migrants are describing neglect and mistreatment at the hands of the U.S. government.

Data obtained by The Associated Press showed that on Wednesday there were three infants in the station, all with their teen mothers, along with a 1-year-old, two 2-year-olds and a 3-year-old. There are dozens more younger than 12. Fifteen have the flu, and 10 more are quarantined.

Girls care for toddler

Migrant, Children, Texas
Protesters hold an inflatable doll outside of the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, June 16, 2019, in Homestead, Fla. A coalition of religious groups and immigrant advocates said they want the Homestead detention center closed. VOA

Three girls told attorneys they were trying to take care of the 2-year-old boy, who had wet his pants and no diaper and was wearing a mucus-smeared shirt when the legal team encountered him.

“A Border Patrol agent came in our room with a 2-year-old boy and asked us, ‘Who wants to take care of this little boy?’ Another girl said she would take care of him, but she lost interest after a few hours and so I started taking care of him yesterday,” one of the girls said in an interview with attorneys.

Law professor Warren Binford, who is helping interview the children, said she couldn’t learn anything about the toddler, not even where he’s from or who his family is. He is not speaking.

Binford described that during interviews with children in a conference room at the facility, “little kids are so tired they have been falling asleep on chairs and at the conference table.”

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She said an 8-year-old taking care of a very small 4-year-old with matted hair couldn’t persuade the little one to take a shower.

“In my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention, I have never heard of this level of inhumanity,” said Holly Cooper, who co-directs University of California, Davis’ Immigration Law Clinic and represents detained youth.

Flores settlement inspections

The lawyers inspected the facilities because they are involved in the Flores settlement, a Clinton-era legal agreement that governs detention conditions for migrant children and families. The lawyers negotiated access to the facility with officials, and say Border Patrol knew the dates of their visit three weeks in advance.

Migrant, Children, Texas
Migrants are seen in a fenced-off area an outdoor encampment where they’re waiting to be processed in El Paso, Texas, June 12, 2019. The Trump administration is facing growing complaints about severe overcrowding, meager food and other hardships. VOA

Many children interviewed had arrived alone at the U.S.-Mexico border, but some had been separated from their parents or other adult caregivers including aunts and uncles, the attorneys said.

Government rules call for the children to be held by the Border Patrol for no longer than 72 hours before they are transferred to the custody of Health and Human Services, which houses migrant youth in facilities around the country.

Government facilities are overcrowded, and five immigrant children have died since late last year after being detained by Customs and Border Protection. A teenage mother with a premature baby was found last week in a Texas Border Patrol processing center after being held for nine days by the government.

CPB overcapacity, underfunded

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In an interview this week with the AP, acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner John Sanders acknowledged that children need better medical care and a place to recover from their illnesses. He urged Congress to pass a $4.6 billion emergency funding package includes nearly $3 billion to care for unaccompanied migrant children.

He said that the Border Patrol is holding 15,000 people, and the agency considers 4,000 to be at capacity.

“The death of a child is always a terrible thing, but here is a situation where, because there is not enough funding … they can’t move the people out of our custody,” Sanders said.

The arrival of thousands of families and children at the border each month has not only strained resources but thrust Border Patrol agents into the role of caregivers, especially for the many migrant youth who are coming without parents.

Migrant, Children, Texas
U.S. Border Patrol agents keep watch on a large group of migrants who they say were attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally, in El Paso, Texas, May 29, 2019. VOA

I’m a child, too’

But children at the facility in Clint, which sits amid the desert scrubland about 25 miles (40 kilometers) southeast of El Paso, say they have had to pick up some of the duties in watching over the younger kids.

A 14-year-old girl from Guatemala said she had been holding two little girls in her lap.

“I need comfort, too. I am bigger than they are, but I am a child, too,” she said.

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Children told lawyers that they were fed oatmeal, a cookie and a sweetened drink in the morning, instant noodles for lunch and a burrito and cookie for dinner. There are no fruits or vegetables. They said they’d gone weeks without bathing or a clean change of clothes.

A migrant father, speaking on condition of anonymity because of his immigration status, told AP Thursday that authorities separated his daughter from her aunt when they entered the country. The girl would be a second-grader in a U.S. school.

He had no idea where she was until Monday, when one of the attorney team members visiting Clint found his phone number written in permanent marker on a bracelet she was wearing. It said “U.S. parent.”

“She’s suffering very much because she’s never been alone. She doesn’t know these other children,” her father said.

‘Anything but child friendly’

Republican Congressman Will Hurd, whose district includes Clint, said “tragic conditions” playing out on the southern border were pushing government agencies, nonprofits and Texas communities to the limit.

“This latest development just further demonstrates the immediate need to reform asylum laws and provide supplemental funding to address the humanitarian crisis at our border,” he said.

Dr. Julie Linton, who co-chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics Immigrant Health Special Interest Group, said CBP stations are not an appropriate place to hold children.

“Those facilities are anything but child friendly,” Linton said. “That type of environment is not only unhealthy for children but also unsafe.”

The Trump administration has been scrambling to find new space to hold immigrants as it faces criticism that it’s violating the human rights of migrant children by keeping so many of them detained.

San Francisco psychoanalyst Gilbert Kliman, who has evaluated about 50 children and parents seeking asylum, says the trauma is causing lasting damage.

“The care of children by children constitutes a betrayal of adult responsibility, governmental responsibility,” he said. (VOA)

Next Story

Online Games: What Risks Do They Pose To Children?

Additionally, parents should monitor their children’s gaming habits closely to ensure that they do not fall victim of any cybercrimes

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MBA, online training, skills, computer
Sitting at a computer with jutting head forward to look more closely at the screen compresses the neck and can cause fatigue, headaches.

Taking a step back, kids used to gather around in the field to get to enjoy their creative games such as soccer. Not to say that they do not do this today, but to say that they have alternative pastime games to play such as Caillou games– thanks to the internet. Digital technology has indeed made waves in the gaming industry. And children are now able to access online games quickly. Like any other invention, there is always two sides of the coin; the good and the bad. In as much as playing online games is beneficial, there are also some risks that they pose to your children. Let’s dig deeper into some of these risks;

  1. Addiction

Perhaps this is one of the main dangers that children are exposed to when playing online games. Online gaming brought a lot of conveniences as the games are easily accessible. As such, without necessary restrictions being taken by the parent, a child can easily fall to gaming addiction. Setting time limits is a considerable measure to be taken as it ensures that your child doesn’t get hooked. Secondly, parents should also monitor their children’s gaming habits. Some of the warning signs of addiction include a child always being on their phones, withdrawing from family members, sudden changes of behaviors and so on.

  1. Cyberbullying

It is quite unfortunate that children are at the risk of being bullied even in the online space. Sometimes when your child is playing against other players, they may receive threatening messages which instil fear in them. Sometimes, they are even threatened to be killed if they tell their parents about it. However, as aforementioned, it is vital for parents to monitor the gaming habits of their children. If you notice any sudden changes in their behaviour, it is good to talk to your child to find out what is going on. Additionally, upon the realization that your child is a victim of cyberbullying, you can either report the issue or block the block bully.

  1. Malware

Viruses slowly creep in console devices, tablets or even through smartphones. Therefore, parents need to be very keen on the types of games their child is downloading. Some of them come in as links and the moment the kid clicks it; the virus gets into your computer. And oftentimes, before you get to realise that your device is malware-infected, the virus will have already done a lot of damage. Therefore, it is crucial first to install anti-virus software. Significantly more,  lock the play store by setting a password so that your kids don’t download any game without their consent.

online games
Representational image. Pixabay
  1. Privacy issues

Parents need to start gaming conversations as soon as they realize their children are getting interested in online games. Let them know that they need to take care of themselves in the online space. Also, inform them that they should never use their real names on this accounts and neither should they share any information with any gamer on the site. Sharing their personal information is one way that cybercriminals use to manipulate your kids and threaten them. And to avoid this, it is best to take the necessary precautions.

  1. Health risks

We cannot neglect the fact that there are a number of health risks associated with continuous gaming. For one, if a child spends too much time seated in front of the computer, they might start complaining about back pains, neck pains, fatigue and eyesight problems. However, all these can be avoided by ensuring that children don’t spend too much time in front of the computer and secondly by making sure they have a comfortable gaming setting.

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  1. Sexual exploitation

Sometimes, when a child is looking for online games to download, they might stumble upon games that have some sexual content. If not keen enough, the child might get introduced to sexual content and pornographic materials at a very early stage. Also, there have been a lot of cases where malicious people start chatting with children only for them to begin exploiting them sexually. Watch out for such!

Take Away

As children start gaming online, parents should talk to them about the risks too. Additionally, parents should monitor their children’s gaming habits closely to ensure that they do not fall victim of any cybercrimes.