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Outrage is mounting over a shocking Associated Press report published late last week revealing that at least 250 migrant infants, children and teenagers have been locked up for nearly a month without adequate food, water or sanitation at a Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas, near the city of El Paso. Lawyers who visited the facility described a scene of chaos and sickness, with children unable to shower or change into clean clothes for weeks on end. The AP report came the same week that the Trump administration argued in federal court that the government is not required to provide toothbrushes, soap or beds to children detained at the border, and as other reports found similarly squalid conditions at a number of immigration jails. We speak with Warren Binford, a lawyer who interviewed children detained at the Clint, Texas, facility.Transcript
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AMY GOODMAN: Outrage is mounting over deplorable and dangerous conditions for migrant children being jailed in detention facilities along the U.S.-Mexico border following a shocking Associated Press report late last week revealing at least 250 infants, children and teenagers have been locked up for nearly a month without adequate food, water or sanitation at a Border Patrol station near El Paso, Texas. Lawyers who visited the facility in Clint, Texas, described a scene of chaos and sickness, with children unable to shower or change into clean clothes for weeks on end. The children have been reportedly fed uncooked frozen food or rice, and young children are being forced to care for infants and toddlers. One local lawyer said a sick 2-year-old boy was being treated by three girls between the ages of 10 and 15, because no one else was helping him. Attorney Holly Cooper said, quote, "In my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention I have never heard of this level of inhumanity," she said.
This report came the same week the Trump administration argued in federal court the government is not required to provide toothbrushes, soap or beds to children detained at the border, and as other reports found similarly squalid conditions at a number of immigration jails. Lawyers who visited detained migrants at a processing center near McAllen, Texas, reported migrants, including young mothers and children, were jailed in unsanitary conditions, sometimes being forced to sleep outside due to overcrowding.
For more, we go to Los Angeles, where we're joined by Warren Binford, a lawyer who interviewed children detained at the Clint, Texas, facility. She is a law professor at Willamette University, director of its Clinical Law Program.
Welcome to Democracy Now! It's great to have you with us, Warren Binford. Can you describe why you went to Clint and what you found there? Describe your interviews with the children.
WARREN BINFORD: Well, basically, we went there because on an almost monthly basis we are learning that children are dying in Border Patrol facilities all along the border, and we're trying to figure out what exactly is going on down there. So we sent a team of attorneys, doctors, interpreters to meet with the children and find out about the conditions in which they are being kept.
We were not originally planning to go to the Clint border facility outside of El Paso, Texas, because it's an adult facility, and the facility historically has had a relatively small occupancy, maximum of 104. However, we received reports last week that children appeared to be moving to this facility. And so what we did was we added it to our list of visits. And when we got there on Monday morning, we were immediately given a roster showing that there were over 350 children at this facility. And then, when we scanned the roster, we were taken aback by the number of very young children at this facility. There were over a hundred young children who were being kept there. And so, we immediately asked the guards to start to bring us the youngest children and also the children who had been there the longest. We also saw that there were about a half a dozen child mothers and their infants. And so we asked the guards to also bring us those children.
When the children walked into the conference room, we couldn't believe what we were seeing. They were sick. They were coughing. They had runny noses. They were filthy dirty. And they immediately started to describe the level of hunger that they were experiencing. They told us that they were being fed nothing but the same meals three times a day, and they weren't really meals. These are Frankenfood; these are highly processed chemical foods. In the morning, they are given instant oatmeal, a packet of Kool-Aid and a cookie. For lunch, they are given instant soup, a cookie and another packet of Kool-Aid. And then, for dinner, they're given a frozen burrito in a plastic wrapper, similar to what you would see at a gas station. And some of the children complained that the burritos were often not thoroughly cooked. And then they also, at that point, are given another cookie and a Kool-Aid. Young children are being given this meal. Child mothers are being given this meal. And so, the children, on a routine basis, said that they were hungry.
On top of that, the children started to describe rooms in which there were 25, 50, a hundred children. One boy said that when he first arrived there, there were over 300 children in a room. When we talked to the Border Patrol officers who are running this facility, they reported to us that the facility had recently undergone an expansion, but we couldn't figure out where that expansion was. So, after that first day of interviewing, we drove around the facility, and we saw a metal warehouse with no walls. And we couldn't believe that that possibly could be the expansion. But when we talked to the Border Patrol officers the next day and started to talk to the children about where they were being kept, we found out that, in fact, that one warehouse was allegedly what had given them an additional capacity of 500 additional children.
So, then what happened was, is we started to talk about the children, and we asked them, "Who is taking care of you?" And we found out that, in fact, nobody is -- virtually no one is taking care of these children directly, that they are locked up in these cells 24 hours a day. There are open toilets in many of these cells. There's no soap, no way to wash their hands. They're being fed in these cells the processed instant foods that I described for you earlier. And many of them are being forced to sleep on concrete because of a shortage of beds and mats and sleeping space. Children described sleeping on concrete floors. They described sleeping on cement blocks -- not just the older children, but we heard of infants, toddlers, preschoolers, school-age children who are having to sleep on the floor.
To make things worse, as we were trying to call in the youngest children, because we were especially concerned about the vulnerabilities of certain elements of this population, we found out that there were a number of children that they could not bring to us because they were so sick. And so we started to count the number of children who apparently were sick at this facility and had been quarantined, and we estimated that at least 15 children that we knew about were in quarantine during the time that we were there. And when we finally got access to these children by telephone, we learned about the conditions in these quarantine facilities, which were just horrendous. These very sick children, with high fevers, are being put on the floor, on mats, largely unsupervised, locked up together for days at a time. They're being brought the same foods that are being fed to everybody else at the facility, despite the fact that they're very sick.
They also have someone who is coming there twice a day to check their fever and to give them any medications that are needed, but there's nobody really caring for these children in the quarantine areas, despite their severe illness. Now, keep in mind that many of the children who have died in these Border Patrol facilities in recent months died from influenza, which is very, very rare in a developed country like the United States. But as you can see, these are not conditions that you would expect to see in the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: So, do you believe some children can die there?