Friday, January 21

They denounce poor conditions of facilities for migrant minors

(CNN) — According to a statement obtained by CNN, two other informants have reported that migrant minors housed at the Fort Bliss facility, near El Paso, Texas, received inadequate care.

Problems include mismanagement by private contractors, a shortage of underwear and other clothing items, and anxiety among minors at not knowing what to expect next, according to insiders Arthur Pearlstein, director of the Federal Public Service. Mediation and Conciliation, and Lauren Reinhold, counsel for the Social Security Administration.

Pearlstein and Reinhold personally spent “hundreds” on books, games and other items for the children, according to the complaint, to make up for the center’s shortcomings.

This Wednesday’s complaint is the second presented by the Government Accountability Project in less than a month showing the problems at Fort Bliss.

They denounce conditions of immigrant minors in custody 2:58

During the spring, the Biden administration established more than a dozen emergency intake sites to mitigate overcrowding at border facilities and accommodate a record number of unaccompanied migrant minors. The facilities are overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is in charge of the care of migrant minors. As of the end of July, only five emergency shelters were open, according to HHS.

Among the largest intake sites is a facility at Fort Bliss that has a potential capacity of up to 10,000 beds. Attorneys who have previously visited the facility have compared it to the “storage” of hundreds of minors.

The center came under heavy scrutiny because of the poor conditions and long periods of time minors spent there before being reunited with a sponsor, such as a parent or relative in the United States. It was also the subject of another complaint filed in early July.

Emerging facilities, such as Fort Bliss, typically took the form of emergency shelters, offering basic necessities, but not providing other services, such as education and case management, to the hundreds of minors housed in them. Conditions in emergency reception centers varied, and changed regularly, but in some cases, the rapid pace at which they were established contributed to their shortcomings and led to criticism.

One of the points of controversy was the long periods of time that the minors stayed in the Fort Bliss facility, which was intended to serve as temporary accommodation, but in some cases the minors stayed there for weeks. Informants in Wednesday’s complaint highlighted poor planning, citing incidents in which minors were told to go home, only to be taken back to the facility.

“On multiple occasions, groups of children who were told they were going home and had already arrived at the airport to catch a flight were suddenly told it was a mistake and were taken back to the center,” it is read in the complaints. “In fact, on at least two occasions, minors who had already got on planes were forced to get off.”

CNN contacted HHS for comment.

Covid-19 transmission

The whistleblowers also said that COVID-19 spread in the facilities, stating that proper masks were not provided to minors and there was no regular monitoring of their use. According to a recent court filing, as of July 12 there were 327 children in medical isolation who had tested positive for COVID-19 at Fort Bliss.

Under the care of HHS, migrant minors over the age of 12 are offered the Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible.

HHS has a licensed bed capacity of about 13,500 equipped with a host of services, such as education and recreation, but given the pandemic-related capacity constraints, the department had to resort to temporary sites to house the minors. As the number of minors declines, the department has increased its licensed bed capacity.

As of July 26, there were 13,752 children in HHS care, according to government data.

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