Immigrant children describe hunger, cold in detention
SANTA ANA, Calif.
Wet and muddy from their trek across the Mexican border, immigrant children say they sat or lay on the cold, concrete floor of the immigration holding centers where they were taken.
It was hard to sleep with lights shining all night and guards kicking their feet, they say. They were hungry, after being given what they say were frozen sandwiches and smelly food. Younger children cried in caged areas where they were crammed in with teens, and they clamored for their parents. Toilets were filthy, and running water was scarce, they say. They waited, frightened of what the future might bring.
“I didn’t know where my mother was,” said Griselda, 16, of Guatemala, who entered the U.S. with her mother in the McAllen, Texas, area.
The children’s descriptions of various facilities are part of a voluminous and at times scathing report filed in federal court this week in Los Angeles in a case over whether the Trump administration is meeting its obligations under a long-standing settlement governing how young immigrants should be treated in custody.
Dozens of volunteer lawyers, interpreters and other legal workers fanned out across the Southwest in June and July to interview more than 200 immigrant parents and children in holding facilities, detention centers and a youth shelter. Advocates said the government isn’t complying with the decades-old Flores agreement, which lays out detention conditions and release requirements for immigrant children.
“They have spoken out loud and clear, and what they’ve said is they are experiencing enforced hunger, enforced dehydration, enforced sleeplessness,” said Peter Schey, an attorney for the children who has asked the court to appoint a special monitor to enforce the agreement. “They are terrorized, and I think it is time for the courts and the public to hear their voices.”