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Migrant children tell of misery in US shelters

China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-06-23 10:00
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Migrant families wait to be taken to a US Border Patrol processing facility after crossing the Rio Grande river into the country in Texas on Monday. [BRANDON BELL/AFP]

WASHINGTON-Migrant children sent to emergency shelters in the United States have described crowded living conditions, spoiled food, a lack of clean clothes and struggles with depression, according to 17 testimonials filed in a court case on Monday.

The children, aged 9 to 17 and largely from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, in some cases spoke of waiting for months inside emergency shelters overseen by the US government while struggling with the conditions, including trouble sleeping under bright lights and infrequent phone calls to family members.

The testimonials offer a detailed look into the conditions within a network of emergency shelters hastily erected by the administration of US President Joe Biden to deal with a sharp rise in the number of unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the US-Mexico border.

In recent months, the children have been moved more quickly out of crowded Border Patrol stations and into the emergency shelters as part of efforts to connect them with family members or other sponsors in the United States.

The children's testimonials, recorded between March and early June, suggest the Biden administration, which has promised a more humane approach to immigration, in some cases struggled to provide optimal care for the children.

About 14,500 unaccompanied children are in the care of the US Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, down from 22,000 in late April. The department was not immediately available for comment.

In one testimonial, a 13-year-old from Honduras said she had been placed on a suicide watch list while at an emergency shelter at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.

The girl, who had spent nearly two months at the facility as of June 4, said she was separated from her father when crossing a river into the US.

"The food here is horrible," she wrote. "Yesterday we were given hamburgers but I couldn't eat it because there was a foul odor coming from the bread … I really only eat Popsicles and juice because that is the only food that I can trust."

A 14-year-old Guatemalan who was detained at an emergency facility in Houston in April said it was very hot and that she was often thirsty. She said the girls had to drink expired milk when they ran out of water. She saw eight girls faint because of the heat and the lack of water, she said, and staff took them to hospital.

Agencies via Xinhua

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