Jun 4, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Migrant children waited hours in vans to be reunited with families: Report

A Mexican woman holds a doll next to children at the Paso Del Norte Port of Entry, in the US-Mexico border in Chihuahua state, Mexico on June 20, 2018.

Families at Paso Del Norte in Mexico at the southern border. Photo: Herika Martinez/AFP/Getty Images

Thirty-seven migrant children were left in two vans overnight as they waited to be reunited with their families at Port Isabel Detention Center, Texas, last July, NBC News reported on Monday.

What they're saying: Andrew Carter, the BCFS Heath and Human Services director charged with transporting the children, aged 5–12, said in an email they'd spent 8 hours without being processed, per NBC. They were twice taken to the center and then back to the van; first because of a paperwork issue and then "because it was too cold in the facility and they were still not ready to be processed," Carter said, according to NBC.

Details: The first child was reunited with their family 11 hours after arriving to be processed on July 15, according to the report. "Not until 39 hours later — after two nights in a van — did the last child step out of a van to be reunited," NBC says. "Most spent at least 23 hours in the vehicles."

  • Carter's emails to company president and CEO Kevin Dinnin led to Health and Human Services reps phoning Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in the middle of the night to try to resolve the situation, according to the outlet, citing a BCFS rep and a former HHS official with knowledge of the incident.
"DHS was clearly not ready to deal with the separations and did not take steps necessary to ensure a speedy reunification with their parents."
— Unnamed official to NBC news

The big picture: An ICE spokesperson told the news outlet the children's experience was "unusual."

  • "Since then, no child has spent more than a few hours waiting to be reunited with their parents," the spokesperson said.

Why it matters: The Trump administration has struggled to provide shelter and find homes for a record number of migrant children in its custody. Authorities have stopped almost 18,000 unaccompanied migrant children illegally crossing the border in just the 2 months, Axios' Stef Knight notes.

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