OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
A new report from CNN exposes just how bad the border crisis is under Joe Biden — and it is worse than most people may have thought.
Children detained in an overcrowded government-run tent facility at the US-Mexico border say they haven’t been able to shower for days or contact their parents, according to lawyers who interviewed them this week.
Lawyers from the National Center for Youth Law spoke with about a dozen children in Donna, Texas, this week, according to Leecia Welch, the center’s senior director of advocacy and child welfare.
The children were terrified, crying and worried about not being able to speak with family members, Welch said. Some said they hadn’t seen sunlight in days. Others said if they were lucky, they would go outside for 20 minutes every few days.
The allegations, first reported by The Associated Press and CBS News, come as concerns mount over the growing number of children in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody. Earlier this week, CNN reported that there were more than 3,700 unaccompanied migrant children in the agency’s custody — a record high.
“Donna is quickly becoming a humanitarian crisis,” Welch told CNN.
“We understand the administration inherited this disaster, but I cannot stress enough how urgent the situation is with the growing number of young unaccompanied children. We spoke to numerous distraught children who don’t understand why they can’t talk to their parents, see their siblings at Donna, or get some fresh air,” Welch added.
All of the children the lawyers interviewed are being detained in a temporary tent facility in Donna.
Earlier this week, a DHS official told CNN the Donna facility was “significantly overcrowded,” describing conditions administration officials observed when they visited last weekend.
“The number of kids is alarming and concerning and not good at all,” the official said.
The team of attorneys was given access to speak with the children because they’re monitoring government compliance with the Flores settlement, a 1997 agreement that limits the length of time and conditions under which US officials can detain immigrant children.
Welch said attorneys were allowed to enter an area designated for lawyers, but they weren’t allowed to tour areas where children are being housed.
Attorneys were handed a manifest of the facility, which was about 100 pages long, Welch said. Every page listed children under 10 years old, she said.
At the facility, children are divided into pods of about 50, by age and sex, Welch said. That, she said, means siblings of different sex are separated, making the already stressful situation for children even worse.
Most of the children have been at the facility for five to seven days, Welch said, and they’re scared.
Because CBP officials are not allowed to hug or console children, children are having to care for each other and console each other, she said.
The attorney said hygiene at the facility is also a concern.
Some children get to shower about once a week and sometimes soap runs out, with only shampoo available, she said. One child told Welch she hadn’t showered in six days.
There are around 8,800 unaccompanied children in HHS custody, the department said Thursday, up from last week when numbers hovered around 7,700.
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Things are so bad that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is asking DHS staff to “volunteer” to help deal with what he conceded was an “overwhelming” number of migrants at the border.
The number of unaccompanied migrant children in Customs and Border Protection’s custody has nearly tripled in the last few weeks.
Imagine how bad things could be in two months or even a year from now.