After just 2 months in office, the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, John Sanders, plans to step down in the coming weeks., according to two agency officials. Customs and Border Protection has come under fire in recent days amid revelations that nearly 300 migrant children — from infants to 17-year-olds — had been detained in a remote Border Patrol station in West Texas without adequate food, water and sanitation.
All but 30 of the children were transferred out of the center in Clint, Texas, after revelations last week that they were being held in squalid conditions. But a CBP official confirmed today that 100 of those children have been moved back to the same Border Patrol station because there wasn’t room in child shelters run by Health and Human Services.
A law professor who recently visited the facility, Warren Binford of Willamette University, described the conditions for children: “Many of them are sleeping on concrete floors, including infants, toddlers, preschoolers. They are being given nothing but instant meals, Kool-Aid and cookies — many of them are sick. We are hearing that many of them are not sleeping. Almost all of them are incredibly sad and being traumatized. Many of them have not been given a shower for weeks. Many of them are not being allowed to brush their teeth except for maybe once every 10 days. They have no access to soap. It’s incredibly unsanitary conditions, and we’re very worried about the children’s health.”
News of the conditions at the Clint facility was first reported last week by The Associated Press based on initial interviews with Binford and other lawyers who were conducting inspections under the terms of the Flores settlement, a legal agreement that spells out how the government is supposed to treat detained migrant children. The AP reported: “A 2-year-old boy locked in detention wants to be held all the time. A few girls, ages 10 to 15, say they’ve been doing their best to feed and soothe the clingy toddler who was handed to them by a guard days ago. Lawyers warn that kids are taking care of kids, and there’s inadequate food, water and sanitation for the 250 infants, children and teens at the Border Patrol station.”
Under the Flores settlement, children detained by the Border Patrol are supposed to be turned over to the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, an arm of the Department of Health and Human Services, within 72 hours. Some children said they had been kept at the Clint facility for weeks.
Congress is expected to vote today on a supplemental spending bill to send money to agencies working to address the needs of migrants arriving at the U.S. Border with Mexico. Last-minute requirements were added to the $4.5 billion legislation that would obligate CBP to establish hygiene and medical standards for children and a 90-day limit on keeping kids in temporary emergency shelters.