US agrees to investigation into health conditions for children at border facilities

Washington:: The Trump administration has agreed to allow a Stanford University pediatrician to conduct an

independent investigation into health conditions for migrant children at US Customs and Border Protection


The pediatrician, Dr. Paul Wise, toured detention centers at the border last summer and was critical of the

conditions there, according to a Stanford publication.

In that interview, Wise described how migrant children are kept in a “kind of cage-like” processing center.

“From there, they get moved to a different processing center, which is kind of cage-like, and labeled the

‘perrera,’ the dog pound,” he said in the September 17, 2018 article. “And that’s the photographs you saw of

kids in cages.”

“One major concern was that the infrastructure of health care for children and their families coming through

the asylum process is woefully inadequate,” he added.

Under the agreement, arranged as part of a lawsuit against the government in federal court, Wise will be able

to conduct inspection of CBP facilities and assess children in the agency’s care. US District Judge Dolly Gee

authorized Wise’s appointment on Monday, according to court documents.

Advocates for children applauded the appointment of an independent investigation into what has been called

deplorable and dangerous conditions for children in detention.

“I think it’s a huge step forward,” said Jennifer Podkul, senior director of policy and advocacy at Kids in Need

of Defense, which is not part of the lawsuit. “Third-party oversight is crucial to ensuring that the government

is living up to the minimum standards it agreed to when holding children. The fact that he’s a medical

professional who has expertise and knows what to look for is crucial.”

The litigation between the government and the children’s lawyers has been ongoing for years.

“It’s a travesty it took this long,” Podkul said. “It’s devastating that it took the deaths of several children for

this to happen.”

In the lawsuit, migrants and their advocates described “deplorable” and unsanitary conditions where babies

were sick, flu was spreading and children didn’t have access to essential and prompt medical care.

A spokesperson for US Customs and Border Protection said the agency could not comment on ongoing

litigation. A lawyer for the children said he fully supports Wise’s appointment.

“We believe he will play a critically important role in developing a range of protocols that if adopted would

substantially decrease the unsafe and unsanitary conditions children are currently experiencing in Border

Patrol custody,” said Peter Schey, president and executive director of the Center for Human Rights and

Constitutional Law.

Wise will submit a draft report of his findings and recommendations on or before August 15, according to a

court document filed late Friday in California.

Over the past five years, children have poured across the US border, seeking relief from violence and

devastating economic conditions, mainly in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

From October 2018 through May of this year, more than 230,000 children have been apprehended at the

border. Of those, about 170,000 were accompanied by a parent or legal guardian and about 56,000 were


In May, the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General found that at one point, 900 migrants were

crammed into an El Paso, Texas, Border Patrol processing facility that had a maximum capacity of 125 people.

According to court filings, Dr. Dolly Sevier, a pediatrician in Brownsville, Texas, who visited children in a

detention center said they were kept in conditions that “could be compared to torture facilities. That is,

extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation,

water or adequate food.”

In his interview for the Stanford publication, Wise referred to detainees being kept for a period of time in a

“facility which is freezing cold. It’s called the ‘hielera,’ the ice box.”

He also mentioned that volunteer doctors working in border area clinics are often “overwhelmed.”

“A caring volunteer neurosurgeon may help fill in, but when is the last time that this doc saw a 5-year-old

with diarrhea and PTSD?” he said.

As part of the current litigation, migrant families have given statements about health conditions at the

detention facilities. For example, one mother said she had no way to wash her baby’s bottle, and her baby

developed vomiting and diarrhea. She said she asked for help twice, but guards said her baby did not need to

see a doctor.

At a congressional hearing Friday, an attorney choked up as she recalled the conditions she witnessed for

children at a Border Patrol facility in Texas.

“They were coughing, they had fevers,” said Elora Mukherjee, director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at

Columbia Law School. “There was a flu epidemic and lice.”

She said children as young as 8 were taking care of younger children who were strangers to them.

“Guards would bring in the little ones, and demand, who is going to take care of this one?’ ” Mukherjee said.

Migrant children are supposed to be kept in Border Patrol custody for no more than 72 hours. But a recent

report by an internal government watchdog found that nearly a third of children in the facilities they inspected

were kept longer. Some children under age 7 had been held for more than two weeks.

In early June, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said that the facilities were

overcrowded and “not an appropriate setting for kids.”

On Tuesday, he said that “we’ve been taking action” and that the agency was providing “additional medical

care” from more than 200 certified providers. A CBP spokesperson said that includes nurse practitioners,

physician assistants, emergency medical technicians, certified medical assistants and other medical support


He also said there were fewer than 200 unaccompanied children in Border Patrol stations and only a few were

staying more than 72 hours.

Homeland Security doctor says he’s giving migrant children the care he’d want for his own kids

Homeland Security doctor says he’s giving migrant children the care he’d want for his own kids