The crisis at the border is still being hidden from the public eye as the Biden administration continues to refuse the media – or anyone else, for that matter – access to the detention facilities and ban the release of pictures of migrant children in the camps. This hush-hush approach has enabled the liberal media to promote the policies of the current commander in chief without exposing the conditions in which so many minors are not being properly cared for, according to reports. Now, however, the president, who so adamantly promised humane treatment for migrant children, is being criticized, and some advocates declare that children are suffering more under his administration than during former President Donald Trump’s.
Pictures Say 1,000 Words – Fort Bliss Immigrant Child Shelter Revealed
Migrant facilities, meant to be temporary, are not expected to be luxurious accommodations. That said, critics are calling the current conditions for undocumented children appalling and unsafe.
Reason.com acquired photographs taken inside Fort Bliss detention center, an Army base near El Paso, TX, where children allegedly are denied basic necessities such as underwear and medical care. Because the Biden administration has prohibited anyone other than staff from entering the migrant facilities or publishing pictures, the news outlet’s sources provided information with the understanding that they would remain anonymous. “If you took a poll, probably about 98 percent of the federal workers here would say it’s appalling,” a federal employee working at the facility told the outlet.
According to an unnamed source, the underwear shortage was bogus. The informant told the website that:
“I’ve checked at Walmart and Target. Anybody with a credit card could go and get all of this. And the answer is, everything is being monitored because we don’t want there to be waste. The irony is just so rich. With the salaries they’re paying us, and rental cars, hotels, per diems, and 72 hours a week—it’s just mind-boggling.”
The federal employee continued to say that the children had not been given underwear, especially those in COVID isolation – once called COVID Campus but now renamed Healing Hill. Once released from seclusion, the minors are given a set of clothes, minus the undergarments, without another set to change into later.
During a meeting, Reason said, a person talked about a child who had been denied medical care. The minor had been coughing up blood, according to the outlet, but the child had to wait for three-and-a-half hours, after mealtime, before being attended to.
The shelter houses mostly boys, and as of May 22, it held 4,632 minors: 3,873 boys and 759 girls. Reason reported details on a recent training session for federal employees. The program’s trainer said interactions between the teens, as well as staff and minors, were inappropriate:
“We have already caught staff with minors inappropriately. Is that OK with you guys? I hope not. We have also caught minors with minors, which is, you know—we’ve got teenagers in this shelter. What’s happening with teenagers? Hormones, raging out of control. It’s important that we maintain safety and vigilance.”
The children are kept in tents that hold about 1,000 people with small cots to sleep on. The trainer explained the conditions:
“I’ve been into one dorm, one time, and I was like, yeah, I’m not going back there. They’re filthy. They’re dirty. There’s food on the floor. There’s wet spots all over the place. The beds are dirty. I don’t know what’s going on or who’s responsible for ensuring that the dorms need to be clean, but we all need to be responsible for telling the minors to clean up after themselves.”
As recently as May 13, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had planned to host up to 5,000 migrant minors under the age of 12, but on May 24, the department’s secretary, Xavier Becerra, told reporters that those plans had changed. “We do not intend to house tender age children – children under the age of 12 – at the Fort Bliss facility,” he said. “We only have kids who are 12 to 17 at the Fort Bliss facility.”
The facility can house up to 10,000 children; however, one alarming factor, according to officials, is that, unlike traditional HHS shelters, this base and some other emergency shelters are not licensed by state authorities to care for children. CBS News received data that showed nearly 600 minors had been held at the Texas facility for 40 days, and even longer, as of earlier this month.
Leecia Welch, senior director of the legal advocacy and child welfare practice at the National Center for Youth Law, met with several minors in various facilities. She compared their conditions to those in the tent city in Tornillo, TX, under the Trump administration, which had been criticized for being located on desert land outside El Paso. It housed more than 2,800 children and teenagers in 2019. “But Fort Bliss is much worse in every respect,” Welch charged. “It goes against everything we know about the proper care and treatment of traumatized children.”
A Look Inside Detention Centers for Immigrant Minors
A shelter in Erie, PA, had a fire safety issue, according to an internal report obtained by The New York Times. Not all of the hot water heaters worked, and an infestation of lice was “a big issue and seems to be increasing.” The heating didn’t work in three rooms, according to a government assessment, which included one room where a child sick with COVID complained about being cold. Cleaning and removal of trash were not done regularly, and gas leaked inside where the children were living. The minors did not have enough clothes, and the shelter was understaffed. This facility was closed on April 26.
The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, TX, was converted into an emergency shelter intended to hold about 2,000 immigrant children, mostly teenage boys. Critics described it as a “big ballroom with no exterior lights,” with children forced to live and sleep with fluorescent lighting that never turned off.
In Houston, TX, a warehouse temporarily used as lodging for 500 females from 13 to 17 years old was shut down because of poor conditions. Girls reportedly said they were constantly hungry and thirsty, water was limited, and food portions too small. Some complained they were fed undercooked chicken and expired items, according to CBS News. Only five-minute showers were allowed, and those were limited, with some girls saying they showered only twice in 15 days. They were also told to turn their underwear inside out instead of having it laundered, and they were not allowed to use the bathroom after 10 p.m.
Secrecy v Transparency
Although many Trump supporters applauded his transparency while in office, some agreed that he was too forthcoming, especially on social media. This may be one reason mainstream news was able to get so much information to publish, and, as some would say, embellish and tweak, to give such a negative narrative on illegal immigration, especially when it came to “children in cages.”
Yet, the Biden administration’s concealment of the border crisis has left a bitter taste in the mouth on both sides of the aisle, which is only souring with these recent allegations. As Liberty Nation reported, there is rampant secret transportation of migrant children to other states, in “the dead of night without the knowledge or permission of the communities involved.”
As a federal employee at Fort Bliss told Reason:
“Secrecy is demanded at a level that might be called for if we were designing the next generation of nuclear subs, and there is absolutely no reason for it. One can understand the need to protect the identities of individual children and not allow them to be photographed. But there is no excuse for any of the other secrecy surrounding the operation.”
Read more from Kelli Ballard.