A pediatrician who toured Texas detention facilities for immigrant children last week declared conditions so deplorable that she compared them to those in “torture facilities,” ABC News reported.
Dr. Dolly Lucio Sevier made the chilling observation in a medical declaration obtained by ABC. She said conditions for unaccompanied minors in the McAllen facility included “extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, [with] no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water or adequate food.”
She told ABC it felt “worse than jail.” It “just felt … lawless,” she added. “Imagine your own children there. I can’t imagine my child being there and not being broken.”
Lucio Sevier, a private-practice physician in the Rio Grande Valley, and a group of lawyers toured facilities at Clint and McAllen. They witnessed listless, dirty, diaperless babies and toddlers; crowded conditions; and children sleeping on concrete floors. Older children were taking care of younger ones as best as they could in the absence of any adult help, said one witness. The youngest “inmate” was less than 3 months old.
Teens told the physician that they weren’t able to even wash their hands. Young mothers in detention with infants were unable to wash out their babies’ bottles, according to Lucio Sevier. She called the appalling lack of sanitary conditions “tantamount to intentionally causing the spread of disease.”
There also were no age-appropriate pureed foods for babies, she noted.
Amid a flu outbreak at McAllen, the lawyers demanded that four seriously ill infants be taken to a hospital for treatment. Six immigrant children have died in federal custody.
After the observers exposed conditions at the overcrowded Clint facility last week, 300 children were evacuated Monday and taken to undisclosed locations. President Donald Trump boasted Sunday that border officials were doing a “fantastic job” housing immigrant children.
In one of a list of child inmate horrors at Clint, Willamette University law professor W. Warren Binder told The New Yorker that Border Patrol agents “got so mad” when the children lost one of two shared lice combs that they took away their sleeping pads and blankets and forced them to sleep on the concrete floor “as punishment.”
But many of the guards, the attorney said, “are on our side and they want us to be successful because the children don’t belong there, and the children need to be picked up and put in appropriate places for children.”
She added: “There is nothing sanitary about the conditions they are in. And they are not safe, because they are getting sick, and they are not being adequately supervised by the Border Patrol officers.”
The attorneys visiting the facilities are representing all detained immigrant children in a class-action lawsuit to force the federal government to follow the requirements of the 1997 Flores settlement, which outlines legal requirements for the treatment and release of children. A Department of Justice attorney argued before stunned judges earlier this month at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit that the government should not be required to provide the children with soap, toothbrushes — or even beds.