Valdosta Daily Times

Top News

June 19, 2014

Sights, smells of holding cells for immigrant kids

BROWNSVILLE, Texas — Children’s faces pressed against glass. Hundreds of young boys and girls covered with aluminum-foil-like blankets next to chain link fences topped with barbed wire. The pungent odor that comes with keeping people in close quarters.

These were the scenes Wednesday from tours of crowded Border Patrol stations in South Texas and Arizona, where thousands of immigrants are being held before they are transferred to other shelters around the country.

It was the first time the media was given access to the facilities since President Barack Obama called the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally this budget year an “urgent humanitarian situation.”

The surge in minors, mostly from Central America, has overwhelmed the U.S. government. It also prompted Texas officials Wednesday night to order a surge in state law enforcement resources to the border in an effort to help stop the influx. Details of that surge are still to come.

The children pose a particular challenge because the law requires that they be transferred from Border Patrol stations like the ones in Texas and Arizona to the Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours.

From there, they are sent to shelters for several weeks as the government tries to reunite them with family in the U.S. The network of some 100 shelters around the country has been over capacity for months and is now caring for more than 7,600 children.

The tours were a shift from previous weeks when the government refused to provide basic details about the location of the facilities. But the tours also came with restrictions, such as no interaction with children and no on-the-record conversations with employees.

Inside the Fort Brown station in Brownsville, dozens of young boys were separated from dozens of young girls, with many lying under blankets on concrete floors. Mothers with children still younger were in another cell.

Happier faces could be found in a side yard outside, where young children colored pictures under a camouflage tent.

A group of about a dozen girls of perhaps 5 or 6 sat under another tent outside the shower trailer, dark hair wet and shiny. Women wearing blue gloves combed each girl’s hair. Tables held stacks of clean bluejeans, T-shirts and toiletries.

Deeper into the yard, teen girls kicked a soccer ball and tossed a football with workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In Nogales, Arizona, girls playing soccer with two male border agents shrieked when their ball crossed over the chain link fence and away from the small recreational area covered by a white tent. Others playing basketball cheered on their teammates.

Inside, the approximately 1,000 children in the clean, 120,000-square-foot warehouse were silent.

In a roomy area with teenage boys, a large, high-definition TV playing the World Cup went largely ignored. A small group of boys played soccer, but most lay on tiny mattresses and covered themselves with thin, heat-reflective blankets that looked like aluminum foil.

Chain link fences 15 feet tall and topped with barbed wire separated the children by age and gender.

Federal agents said they could not provide an estimate of the number of minors at the facility because the figure is fluid as children transition in and out.

Authorities at the Nogales station have struggled to adjust to their new role as temporary caretakers.

For example, it took a few days of children rejecting breakfast burritos before agents learned that Central Americans aren’t accustomed to flour tortillas. FEMA renegotiated its contract with a food vendor to begin receiving corn tortillas instead.

The children are fed three times a day and take turns by group to use the 200-seat dining area.

———

Galvan reported from Nogales, Arizona.

 

1
Text Only
Top News
  • Arizona Execution Dru_Rich copy.jpg Arizona’s McCain: Execution was torture

    U.S. Sen. John McCain says the execution of an Arizona inmate that lasted two hours was torture.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Battle of Atlanta_Rich copy.jpg Civil War battle sites have a mobile app

    This week marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Atlanta, one of the key conflicts of the Civil War, and researchers at Emory University’s Center for Digital Scholarship have released a mobile app for the tour.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ukraine Plane_Rich copy.jpg US: Russia firing into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.
    Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP7107260254 copy.jpg Today in History for Saturday, July 26, 2014

    Today is Saturday, July 26, the 207th day of 2014. There are 158 days left in the year.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brother sues W.Va. senator over business loan

    U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin III faces a $1.7 million civil suit filed by a brother over a lifeline to save a family carpet business. in the late 1980s.

    July 25, 2014

  • Darth Vader is polling higher than all potential 2016 presidential candidates

    This week FiveThirtyEight released the results of a poll of Americans' opinions on the "Star Wars" universe. Not surprisingly, Jar Jar Binks is the most reviled character in the series. As Walt Hickey notes, the Gungan from Naboo posted lower favorability numbers than Emperor Palpatine, "the actual personification of evil in the galaxy."

    July 25, 2014

  • DDS Commissioner Announces Expansion of Commercial Driver Training Program

    Department of Driver Services (DDS) Commissioner Rob Mikell announced today an expansion of the commercial driver training program administered by the Agency’s Regulatory Compliance Division.

    July 25, 2014

  • Mideast Iraq_Rich copy.jpg Iraq elects new president amid attacks

    Iraqi lawmakers elected a veteran Kurdish politician on Thursday to replace long-serving Jalal Talabani as the country’s new president in the latest step toward forming a new government. But a series of attacks killed dozens of people and Islamic militants destroyed a Muslim shrine traditionally said to be the burial place of the Prophet Jonah, underscoring the overwhelming challenges facing the divided nation.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hong Kong Shutdown_Rich copy.jpg Hong Kong firms on edge as blockade looms

    As activists vow to shut down Hong Kong’s financial district in protest at China’s attempt to hobble democratic elections in the city, businessman Bernard Chan is preparing for the worst.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast Israel Palest_Rich copy.jpg UN school in Gaza caught in cross-fire; 15 killed

    A U.N. school in Gaza crowded with hundreds of Palestinians seeking refuge from fierce fighting came under fire Thursday, killing at least 15 civilians and leaving a sad tableau of blood-spattered pillows, blankets and children’s clothing scattered in the courtyard.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

School starts again in about two weeks. What do you think?

It's still summer. School starts too soon.
Seems like the right time to return.
Abolish summer recess. Make school year-round.
     View Results