Immigrant Children Describe Hunger and Cold in Detention
Wet and muddy from their trek across the Mexican border, immigrant children say they sat or lay on the cold, concrete floor of the immigration holding centers where they were taken. It was hard to sleep with lights shining all night and guards kicking their feet, they say. They were hungry, after being given what they say were frozen sandwiches and smelly food.
Younger children cried in caged areas where they were crammed in with teens, and they clamored for their parents. Toilets were filthy, and running water was scarce, they say. They waited, unsure and frightened of what the future might bring. “I didn’t know where my mother was,” said Griselda, 16, of Guatemala, who entered the U.S. with her mother in the McAllen, Texas, area. “I saw girls ask where their mothers were, but the guards would not tell them.” The children’s descriptions of various facilities are part of a voluminous and at times scathing report filed in federal court this week in Los Angeles in a case over whether the Trump administration is meeting its obligations under a long-standing settlement governing how young immigrants should be treated in custody.
Dozens of volunteer lawyers, interpreters and other legal workers fanned out across the Southwest in June and July to interview more than 200 immigrant parents and children in holding facilities, detention centers and a youth shelter.
Also in Texas, Keylin, a 16-year-old girl from Honduras, said she traveled north with her mother after her mother’s life was threatened back home. The pair turned themselves in at the border near McAllen and were taken to a facility she called the “ice box” because it was so cold.
The litany of complaints compiled by advocates comes after a global outcry drove the Trump administration to stop separating immigrant families at the border. Authorities are now reuniting parents and children under a separate court order and said they will seek to detain families together during their immigration proceedings, though under the Flores agreement immigrant children are generally supposed to be released from custody in about 20 days.