The U.S. government has removed all but 30 migrant children from a remote Border Patrol station in Texas after reports that they were being held in alarmingly poor conditions and attempting to care for each other with inadequate food, water and sanitation.
There were about 255 children being held in what lawyers described as neglectful conditions during a visit Thursday to the station in Clint, Texas. U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, said Monday that all but 30 of the children had been moved from the station in a farming community east of El Paso.
A lawyer who had visited the station told Escobar that older children were having to care for younger children, some had been held for nearly a month and some children had not been allowed to contact family members.
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“How is it possible that you both were unaware of the inhumane conditions for children, especially tender-age children at the Clint Station?” asked Escobar in a letter sent Friday to U.S. Customs and Border Protection acting commissioner John Sanders and U.S. Border Patrol chief Carla Provost.
Escobar had called for the immediate release of the children, describing the conditions and situation as unacceptable not only for the children, but Border Patrol agents as well.
"How many children in Clint were separated from their parents?
"What is the administration doing to reunite these families?
"Who will be held accountable for these atrocities?"
U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to questions about the children being moved from the Clint station.
Escobar said that CBP and Border Patrol leaders told her that the situation was under investigation by the CBP Office of Professional Responsibility and the DHS Office of the Inspector General.
"Children do not belong in detention and (President Donald Trump's) failed policies are only harming children and promoting needless and cruel family separation. This must end, " Escobar tweeted Monday.
The situation at the Clint Border Patrol station comes as El Paso continues to see a large influx of asylum seekers, mostly from Central America, but also Cuba and other countries.
The Border Patrol's El Paso Sector apprehended more than 104,000 migrant families and 19,000 single adults between October and May.
A temporary tent facility that can hold up to 500 people was set up May on the grounds of Border Patrol Station 1 on Gateway South Boulevard and Hondo Pass Drive.
Clara Long, an attorney who interviewed children at the Border Patrol Station 1 last week, told the AP that conditions were not necessarily better there.
"One boy I spoke with said his family didn’t get mattresses or blankets for the first two nights and he and his mom came down with a fever," said Long, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch. “He said there were no toothbrushes, and it was very, very cold."
Vice President Mike Pence, asked about the unsafe, unsanitary conditions for the children on "Meet The Press" Sunday, said “it’s totally unacceptable” adding that he hopes Congress will allocate more resources for border security.
Long and a group of lawyers inspected the facilities because they are involved in the Flores settlement, a Clinton-era legal agreement that governs detention conditions for migrant children and families. The lawyers negotiated access to the facility with officials and say the Border Patrol knew the dates of their visit three weeks in advance.
Government rules call for children to be held by the Border Patrol in their short-term stations for no longer than 72 hours before they are transferred to the custody of Health and Human Services, which houses migrant youths in facilities around the country through its Office of Refugee Resettlement.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on El Paso Times: Migrant children removed from 'inhumane conditions' at overcrowded Texas detention facility