Immigration advocates credit the Biden administration with acting quickly to move tens of thousands of migrant children out of jail-like detention facilities on the U.S. southern border and into safer emergency shelters.
But the advocates are now growing increasingly concerned about the conditions in the mass shelters, such as a military base in El Paso, Texas.
“We saw a lot of very traumatized children,” said Leecia Welch, an attorney at the nonprofit National Center for Youth Law, referring to conditions in the tent shelters at Fort Bliss. “The girls told us that a lot of the girls in the tent were crying a lot and they needed to talk to someone because they were having thoughts of self-harm.”
The Biden administration is now caring for almost 20,000 migrant children who came to the United States without their parents. Most of them are staying in the emergency shelters, which are run by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The facilities include a convention center in Dallas, a coliseum in San Antonio and a former oil field in Midland, Texas.
The Biden administration defended the use of the shelters, emphasizing that it inherited an under-resourced program for unaccompanied migrant children.