More than 300 migrant children have been transferred out of a Texas Border Patrol station after reports describing filthy, overcrowded conditions there emerged last week, according to the Associated Press.
It’s not immediately clear where the children have been sent. Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment.
It’s possible that the children, many of whom are younger than 12, have been transferred to another Border Patrol facility. Or they may have been placed in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the agency charged with caring for migrant children who enter the U.S. alone. Migrant children are supposed to stay in ORR custody until they can be released to a parent or another sponsor who can care for them.
Warren Binford, a law professor at Willamette University who was part of the team that visited the Clint, Texas, facility, previously told VICE News that every child she interviewed last week said they had a relative living in the U.S.
“They are creating these health outbreaks with their mismanagement of this population of children," Binford said, adding that the children are supposed to be transferred to ORR custody. “It's all a matter of getting these children to their families, so that their families can take care of them and so that you don't have them warehoused in a Border Patrol facility.”
Binford described a chaotic scene at the Clint facility: filthy, sick children in stained clothes. Teenagers taking care of younger children, who in turn were taking care of babies. Children sleeping on concrete floors. A flu outbreak made worse by freezing-cold temperatures and a lack of soap.
“We saw many, many sick children,” she said. “We immediately saw children who were coughing and had runny noses. They had mucus all over their shirts.”
Some of the kids had been in the facility for weeks, Binford said. Federal rules dictate that migrant children can’t be kept in Border Patrol custody for more than 72 hours.
“They [Border Patrol agents] say, ‘We are on your side. Children don’t belong here; they need to get to appropriate facilities because we can’t appropriately care for them here.’”
Cover: A bus transporting immigrants leaves a temporary facility at a US Border Patrol Station in Clint, Texas, on June 21, 2019. (Photo: PAUL RATJE/AFP/Getty Images)