An immigration organization criticized the “heartbreaking conditions” at a detention center for illegal migrant children at Fort Bliss, Texas, in a statement provided to the Daily Caller News Foundation on Thursday.
In a court document filed in June, a 13-year-old girl held at the Fort Bliss site said children slept in tents with hundreds of others where the lights were always on. She claimed they were served bloody or raw meat.
Employees confiscated items the migrant children could use to hurt themselves, including writing utensils and plastic identification cards, according to the girl. She said she and dozens of others were placed on a suicide watch and monitored continuously for 10 days.
At one point, the girl said, the children were only allowed to shower for five minutes every two days. She said she had been at the detention center for almost two months.
Before being brought to the Fort Bliss site, the girl said she was held in a crowded trailer and a tent referred to as “the freezer” because it was so cold.
“These heartbreaking conditions are emblematic of the many problems with the warehousing of vulnerable children by contractors with little to no child welfare experience,” Krish O’Mara Vinarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, told the DCNF.
“Overly controlled schedules, limited educational and recreational time, inadequate nutrition, and insufficient access to case managers are deeply troubling conditions that no child should be subjected to.”
“These children aren’t just in our government’s custody; they are in our care — their welfare is better served in settings that are small, safe, and licensed in line with their best interests.”
“The primary focus now and in years to come must be building permanent, licensed capacity to eliminate the need to warehouse children in conditions that may traumatize them. We can, and must, welcome these children with compassion and dignity,” Vinarajah added.
The Fort Bliss site near El Paso, Texas, opened in March in an effort to move unaccompanied migrant minors out of Customs and Border Protection facilities, according to a Department of Health and Human Services statement.
The facility was supposed to provide a “safe place to rest” for up to 5,000 male migrant children, with services provided by a mix of contracted and federal employees.
Nearly 14,800 migrant children were in HHS custody and just under 1,000 minors were in CBP facilities as of Wednesday, according to an HHS report.
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