The teenage girl with pigtail braids was hunched over in a wheelchair and holding a bunch of sweatshirt when an immigrant advocate met her at a crowded Border Patrol facility in Texas. She opened the sweatshirt and the advocate gasped. It was a tiny baby, born prematurely and held in detention instead of where the advocate believes the baby should have been – at a hospital neonatal unit
"You look at this baby and there is no question that this baby should be in and a tube with a heart monitor, "said Hope Frye, and volunteer with an immigrant advocacy group who travels to the country visiting immigration facilities with children to make sure the facilities comply with federal guidelines
Frye and other advocates said the case highlights the poor conditions immigrants are held in after crossing the US-Mexico border as the government deals with an unprecedented number of families and children arriving daily
The mother, a 1
She was in a wheelchair in extreme pain when legal advocates found her this week. The girl told advocates she crossed the border through the Rio Grande River but needed people to carry her, and she also needed help getting into a Border Patrol car when she was apprehended.
The mother and daughter were expected to be transferred to and private-run facility for underage immigrants without parents on Thursday after outcry on social media
They were held in an overcrowded McAllen processing facility that holds hundreds of parents and children in large, fenced-in areas and gained international attention last year when it detained children separated from their parents. Advocates describe them as cages and say they are extremely cold.
The Trump administration has faced daily criticism over conditions in migrant detention facilities
Five children have died since late last year being detained by the Border Patrol. Immigrants have been kept outside for extended periods near a bridge in El Paso under conditions that a professor who recently visited the location told the Texas Monthly magazine was like a "human dog pound."
And an Inspector General report last month found severe Overcrowding inside El Paso processing center, with 76 migrants packed into a tiny cell designed for 12 people. Investigators saw immigrants standing on top of toilets to make room and find space to breathe because the cell was so cramped
In a letter to the Congress this week, Secretary of Homeland Security, Kevin K. McAleenan and Alex Azar , who heads the Health and Human Services Department
"We continue to experience a humanitarian and security crisis at the southern border of the United States, and the situation becomes more dire every day," they wrote .
Customs and Border Protection said its agents are overwhelmed and do not have the funds or resources to handle the influx. Health and Human Services, the governmental agency responsible for caring for unaccompanied children after they are released from Border Patrol custody, said it is a past capacity with over 13,000 children in its care at the moment.
Families and underage migrants who cross the border are held in Border Patrol facilities meant to be temporary and designed primarily for single adult men – not mothers, newborns and sick toddlers. Families are regularly kept in them for much longer than the allowed maximum of 72 hours.
Frye first met the teenage girl at the McAllen facility on Tuesday. The girl said the border authorities made her throw away her backpack with her baby's clothes and did not give her anything else, so the baby was in a dirty one bundled in a sweatshirt that another migrant mother gave her
At one point, the baby Frye said the baby and her mother would never have been kept there. She said she was not sure how premature the baby was born but described the baby as "minuscule," with a head being "the size of my fist or smaller than my fist."
Customs and Border Protection, which runs the facility
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