Reports, visits by independent observers warn of “panic attacks”, frequent outbreaks of lice, prolonged incarceration and widespread depression
EL PASO, Texas (Border report) – This week, two federal court motions call for improvements to migrant detention facilities at Fort Bliss and other locations where children allegedly live in cramped, sometimes unsanitary conditions with inadequate access to mental health services.
The June 21 filings cite the latest report from the Youth Coordinator of the Office of Refugee Resettlement and the findings of independent observer Paul Wise on:
- Prolonged detention of children aged 13 to 17 years;
- Community tents for up to 500 children with little to no privacy;
- Bunk beds almost at floor level, which are often dusty;
- Boredom, hopelessness, and anxiety from prolonged incarceration where children are sent to external medical care after panic attacks;
- Inadequate access to timely mental health services and children wait weeks to learn about the status of their family reunification case;
- At least 122 children stay on the Fort Bliss site for more than two months – far more than the 20 days required by the 1997 Flores Agreement.
“Obviously, these terms and conditions and treatment fall under the standards of properly licensed placement that ORR’s (Flores) agreement requires to make the children available to the children as soon as possible,” the pleadings read.
The lawyers claim that poor case management at Fort Bliss and the other emergency room services (EIS) unnecessarily delays the release of children and harms them emotionally.
“Some of the girls (at Fort Bliss) stayed in their bunks for most of the day, asking to skip meals,” the records said. “In May it was reported that girls suffered panic attacks and several were taken out of the living tents on stretchers for medical treatment outside.”
Frequent lice outbreaks were reported at the end of May, and the girls at Fort Bliss EIS were “quite scared” too.
The results of the report reflect concerns previously to Border Report and KTSM. voiced from former contract workers at the HHS Fort Bliss facility. HHS responded to detailed questions about the allegations with a general information sheet about the facility.
The Associated Press reported this week that the Biden government reports a decline in the number of children in shelters from a high of 14,500 in April to fewer than 8,000 children.
At Fort Bliss, the government’s largest emergency shelter, the number of children has dropped from around 4,800 to 1,600, AP reported.
(Roxanne Van Ruiten / KTSM contributed to this report.)