All of the children hospitalized were under the age of three and, according to the lawyers, were exhibiting symptoms of fever, cough, vomiting and diarrhea. They all had mothers or guardians who were in their teens. One two-year-old was so ill, their eyes had rolled back in their head and they were “completely unresponsive,” Florida attorney Toby Gialluca told HuffPost. Some of the children had been refusing food or drink.
Gialluca also spoke of the terrified looks she saw on the children, saying, “It’s just a cold, fearful look that you should never see in a child of that age. You look at them and you think, ‘What have you seen?’”
Conditions in the detention centers are horrendous and inhumane. Migrants, including pregnant women, are forced to live in cages outside with no protection from the elements, no beds, and no blankets. They sleep on the dirt floor and are not provided with soap, toothpaste, or toothbrushes. In fact, a Trump Administration lawyer recently argued that the government is not obligated to provide basic sanitary products to detainees, despite a decree that mandates “safe and sanitary” conditions.
A Trump official tried to argue that detained children don’t need soap, toothbrushes, or beds to be ‘safe and sanitary’ while in Border Patrol custody pic.twitter.com/sRFPZsDbwy
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) June 21, 2019
“It’s intentional disregard for the well-being of children,” Gialluca said. “The guards continue to dehumanize these people and treat them worse than we would treat animals.”
Migrants in detention centers where children are held also lack access to clean water and adequate food, according to an Associated Press report this week. Many have the flu and are not receiving any treatment. There is concern about the spread of disease because children do not have fully developed immune systems to fight infections, and illness can quickly become severe or even life-threatening.
One two-year-old boy, without parents or guardians, is being watched by slightly older girls, ages 10-15, the AP reported. “A Border Patrol agent came in our room with a 2-year-old boy and asked us, ‘Who wants to take care of this little boy?’ Another girl said she would take care of him, but she lost interest after a few hours and so I started taking care of him yesterday,” one of the girls told attorneys in an interview.
Conditions like this are almost unprecedented. As Holly Cooper, co-director of the University of California, Davis’ Immigration Law Clinic, told the AP: “In my 22 years of doing visits with children in detention, I have never heard of this level of inhumanity.”