After denying access to the media, and high ranking state officials, on Wednesday June 18, the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agency allowed reporters to tour the facility housing thousands of illegal alien children. The children were sent to Arizona when, according to the federal government, the stations in Texas were overwhelmed with the number of migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico.
Reporters were not allowed to ask questions, and the only photos allowed were taken by an AP Pool reporter. Reporters dutifully filed in to be lead on the tour, which was carefully orchestrated by federal officials.
It was an eerie feeling walking through the Nogales CBP facility. Looking into the eyes of children from all over Central America I could see my reflection in their eyes. This was bizarre and disturbing, but no easy answer came to mind.
The 120,000 square ft Border Patrol facility in Nogales, Arizona, originally used for adult border crossers is now a facility reshaped exclusively for children. The current number at the facility is 900 with max capacity of the facility at 1,154. According to CBP, the four priorities of the facility are to “ensure safety, health, nourishment, and cleanliness” to the growing number of children.
Minors ranging from toddlers to near adults looked through the chicken wire fences as reporters walked passed staring back.
A group of about 30 children were outside “recreating,” while others were processed by government employees. As we walked through the facility hundreds of Border Patrol, FEMA, and contractors were working at the facility. Some Border Patrol seemed particularly connected to the children as they would stand at the fence and comfort a crying child.
Agents and FEMA employees tended to the needs of the illegal immigrants, who are awaiting their turnover to the Office of Refugee Services.
The facility is containment centers are broken down by gender and age. 17-16, 15-13, and 12-under are all separated with an exception for siblings. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has taken the lead role in establishing all of the outside resources to clean and feed the residence of the facility.
With kids of all ages and backgrounds you started to wonder if they really all had family, phone numbers, or other connections to move along the process. How many would be left at a shelter facility indefinitely? How many would never see their families again because of this dream turned nightmare. You couldn’t help but insert yourself into their position.
A phonebank center with 40 phones is in constant use for the minors to get in touch with family or friends and Red Cross has been a major help in providing services for these kids. They are dressed in a uniform of gym shorts and a white T-shirt. They also have removed all shoe laces from the kids which is usually done for safety reasons.
Overall the facility appears adequate and safe, but the stonewalling and limited access the press was given raises more questions than answers. No specific details regarding numbers or dates for the facility were given, but we have emailed the Border Patrol requesting more information.
The situation supported by our federal government is tearing families apart and only adding to our abundance of undocumented, unaccounted for minors.
With many of these kids moving into new transition shelters just next week border security should be as important as ever. More importantly the perception must transition to one of enforcement unless we want to continue tearing families apart.