Mar 30, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Journalists allowed in Texas border facility reveal overcrowded conditions

Picture of an overcrowded tent in a border facility in Donna, Texas
Dario Lopez-Mills - Pool/Getty Images

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency on Tuesday allowed journalists inside its main border detention facility in Donna, Texas, which contained over 4,100 children and families, AP reports.

Why it matters: AP reporters said that the facility has a capacity for 250 people, but more than 4,000 people are being housed inside. Children are being put in 3,200 square feet pods , some that currently hold over 500 children.

  • Oscar Escamilla, acting executive officer of the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector, told AP that more than 2,000 children have been residing in the Donna facility for over three days. There are children that have been in there for 20 days.
  • The Biden administration expects that the number of children crossing the border could increase from more than 16,000 in March to up to 26,000 in September.

Details: Children are given health checks and lice inspections as they get processed. Some are checked for scabies, fever and other conditions, per AP.

  • While the Donna facility remains overcrowded, no one is tested for coronavirus unless they show symptoms.
    • The overall virus positivity rate is about 14%, Escamilla told reporters. He believes that more children will become infected due to the packed conditions.
  • Children are asked if they are suicidal and their shoelaces are removed to prevent potential injury.
  • Children receive notices to appear before an immigration court and border patrol agents ask them if they have contacts within the U.S., the children are then allowed to speak with them over the phone.
  • The younger children are put in a "tender-age" section, which has a large play pen with mats on the floor intended for sleeping.

The bottom line: "Facilities are at capacity under coronavirus protocols, and the Rio Grande Valley sector — which includes Donna — has far exceeded even its non-pandemic limits," Axios' Stef Kight writes.

Monitored by a caretaker, young unaccompanied migrants, ages 3-9, watch TV inside a play pen in the Department of Homeland Security holding facility. Photo: Dario Lopez-Mills - Pool/Getty Images
Young migrants wait to be tested for Covid-19 at the Donna Department of Homeland Security holding facility. Photo: DARIO LOPEZ-MILLS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Migrants speak to their relatives inside a phone booth after being processed. Photo: DARIO LOPEZ-MILLS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Young children look out from inside a pod at the Department of Homeland Security holding facility. Photo: Dario Lopez-Mills - Pool/Getty Images
Minors talk to an agent outside a pod at the Department of Homeland Security holding facility run by the Customs and Border Patrol. Photo: Dario Lopez-Mills - Pool/Getty Images
Officers process migrants entering a U.S. Customs and Border Protection holding facility in Donna, Texas. Photo: Dario Lopez-Mills/AP Photo/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A minor walks over others inside a pod for females at the Department of Homeland Security holding facility run by the Customs and Border Patrol. Photo: Dario Lopez-Mills - Pool/Getty Images
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