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The border crisis worsens as a new report sheds light on the conditions at an overflowing migrant facility on the U.S. southern border. Minors haven’t seen the sunlight in days, have only had one shower in a week, and have to take turns sleeping on the floor because of overcrowding, according to lawyers who spoke to children at a detainment center.
Neha Desai, a lawyer for the National Center for Youth Law, interviewed children being detained at the Customs and Border Protection holding facility in Donna, Texas. As of March 2, there were more than 1,800 people being detained at the facility, which is 729% of its capacity during the pandemic. The Donna facility opened last month and has been operating over its pandemic capacity for weeks.
“Some of the boys said that conditions were so overcrowded that they had to take turns sleeping on the floor,” Desai told CBS News.
“They all said they wanted to shower more and were told they couldn’t,” Desai said, adding that several minors were only permitted to shower once in seven days.
“One of them shared that he could only see the sun when he showered, because you can see the sun through the window,” Desai said. She said many children did not have access to outside activities and were visibly emotional.
Children had been denied phone calls to communicate with family members. “They were hysterically crying, wanting to talk to their family,” she said.
Leecia Welch, a senior director and lawyer at the National Center for Youth Law, spoke to about a dozen children at the Donna facility.
“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.”
The lawyers said CBP denied them access to the facility.
The Washington Post reported this week, “The magnitude came into clearer focus Wednesday as the new administration was holding record numbers of unaccompanied migrant teens and children in detention cells for far longer than legally allowed and federal health officials fell further behind in their race to find space for them in shelters.”
Last week, the New York Times reported that migrant facilities were “akin to jails.”
CNN reported that the record-high “number of unaccompanied migrant children in Border Patrol custody continues to climb, reaching more than 3,700 on Wednesday, many of them in jail-like facilities along the US-Mexico border.”
An Axios report found that February had the highest number in the history of the Unaccompanied Alien Child program. There were nearly 9,500 unaccompanied children who were taken into custody in February, a 21-month high.
Border officials expect the number of unaccompanied minors to surge to 13,000 children in May, which would be the most of the border crisis. The massive influx of illegal immigrants is believed to stem from President Joe Biden’s lax border and immigration policies.
“DHS has continued our close coordination with HHS as it increases its capacity to care for unaccompanied minors and place them with sponsors,” a CBP spokesperson told the Washington Examiner. “Our goal is to ensure that CBP has the continued capability to quickly and efficiently transfer unaccompanied minors after they are apprehended to HHS custody, as is required by U.S. law, and as is clearly in the best interest of the children.”
“Addressing the flow of unaccompanied children crossing our southwest border is an important priority of this Administration and DHS,” the CBP spokesperson added. “It requires a whole of government coordinated and sustained response.”
After being overwhelmed by the surge of illegal immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, the Department of Homeland Security is recruiting volunteers from the agency to assist in the border crisis.
“Today, I activated the Volunteer Force to support Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as they face a surge in migration along the Southwest Border,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas reportedly said in an email to DHS staff.
The Biden administration has publicly denied that there is a crisis at the border.