A top Biden administration official told reporters that federal detention for unaccompanied minors isn’t “as traumatic” as traveling to the U.S.
“I doubt that any of the children in these facilities would tell any one of us that what they’re experiencing now is anywhere near as traumatic as what they experienced trying to get here,” Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra said, CBS News reported. Minors at the Fort Bliss facility near El Paso, Texas, allegedly weren’t able to access clean clothes, showers or case managers who help match them with sponsors, according to lawyers.
Becerra denied allegations that migrant children lack critical resources and said that they’re provided meals and access to behavioral health specialists as well as medical personnel, according to CBS News.
At my first stop along the border in El Paso, we toured the Emergency Intake site at Fort Bliss. An estimated 1,500 illegal migrants are entering the country daily & officials at the border confirm that they’re seeing the most illegal crossings that we’ve experienced in 20 years. pic.twitter.com/dXcaNA3sYo
— Gus Bilirakis (@RepGusBilirakis) May 25, 2021
Over 4,500 teenagers aged 12 to 17 were staying in the facility’s large tents as of Friday, according to CBS News. Becerra toured the facility over the weekend and claimed the migrant children have access to the services they need.
“We provide them with the clothing and the sanitary materials that they need,” Becerra said, CBS News reported. “I saw no shortage. In fact, as I said, I saw a warehouse with the articles that they would need.”
National Center for Youth Law attorney Neha Desai and other lawyers who’ve spoken with migrant kids held at the facility said multiple girls told them there was talk of self-harm among certain children, according to CBS News. (RELATED: Biden Is ‘Enticing’ Migrant Minors To Travel To The US, Texas Governor Says)
“It is true that unaccompanied children generally arrive at our borders with complex trauma,” Desai said, CBS News reported. “But it is far from true that their distress while in government custody is exclusively the result of their pre-existing trauma.
“Research has confirmed what our experience interviewing these children repeatedly reveals — detention is harmful and can profoundly exacerbate underlying trauma,” Desai said.
Becerra maintained that HHS is “doing everything we can while they’re temporarily in our care to make sure we help address that as best we can,” according to CBS News.
“If I were a child and I was without my parent, without my family, in a foreign country, not being able to speak the language, not knowing what will happen to me, I would feel stressed as well,” Becerra added, CBS News reported.
Around 600 migrant minors were at the facility for 40 days or longer as of early May, according to CBS News. The shelter isn’t licensed by state authorities and can hold up to 10,000 migrant children total.
Customs and Border Protection officials encountered over 178,000 illegal migrants in April, including more than 17,000 unaccompanied minors, accordingto the agency.
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