HOUSTON – Border Patrol officers temporarily stopped processing migrants arrested in the agency's largest detention center, in the South Texas city of McAllen, after detained people were diagnosed with illness. with flu.
The stop was ordered in late Tuesday, a day after the death of Guatemalan boy, who was 16 years old and was ill with flu and was in custody at the center.
On Tuesday, medical staff at the facility – known as the Centralized Processing Center or Ursula, identified from its launch on Ursula Avenue – a large number of migrants with high fever and flu-related symptoms. The officers decided to temporarily suspend all intake procedures for migrants to “avoid the spread of illness,” said a parent, Border Patrol Customs and Border Protection, in a statement.
The Centralized Processing Center continues to operate, but no longer receives new migrants, officials said. Migrants arrested in the area are now being processed elsewhere.
The move raised new issues and controversy regarding the conditions and medical care in Border Patrol facilities, as the agency tackles the growth of migrants from Guatemala, Honduras. and El Salvador.
The 16 year old boy, Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, He was found dead on Monday morning. The third child of immigrants – all from Guatemala – was to die in Customs and in Border Protection in recent months. A fourth Guatemalan boy died last month after the Department of Health and Human Services received a youth shelter.
Carlos was sick with flu, but he still doesn't know the cause of death.
He was an unaccompanied minor, and joined the United States on May 13 near Hidalgo, Tex.Den a Customs and Border Defense officer who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity, Carlos received an initial medical screening. That day and he showed no signs of illness, and then transferred to the Centralized Processing Center, the main advocate of migrants arrested in the Rio Grande Valley region.
On Sunday morning, the official said, Carlos told agents that he was not feeling well, and a nurse practitioner decided he had flu and recommended that he get doses of Tamiflu.
Carlos was subsequently transferred to the Border Patrol station in Weslaco, approximately 20 miles away, where it could be separated from other detained persons. He was found dead at Weslaco station about an hour after a welfare check, the official said.
The agency said it initiated an investigation of its death.
While it was not clear exactly how many of the prisoners showed signs of flu on Tuesday at Ursula, it appeared that a small fraction of the hundreds of migrants are processed there each day.
Officials were struggling to build and look after floods of families in Central America. Hundreds of migrant families are kept daily, and even per hour in some border regions. Recent South Texas agents took more than 400 migrants in a number of groups recently.
In the busiest Border Patrol sector – the Rio Grande Valley Sector, including McAllen – the agency's facility retention capacity was 3,363 migrants in custody, but more than 8,000 were in custody last week.
The Border Patrol opened a temporary tent city in Donna, a town close to McAllen, and built four tent structures outside two Border Patrol stations in South Texas.
Images of migrants sitting on the concrete path and grass outside Border Patrol buildings in recent years have exploded immigrant advocates and Democratic lawmakers. For months, they have complained that the conditions at the detention centers and pub cities are crazy and unhealthy.
Many migrants are ill when they are caught, or become ill after they are based in Ursula. The McAllen detention center, which opened in 2014, is a major store of corrugated steel, with migrant groups held in a chain cage. Migrants refer to him as “La Hielera” – the ice or the ice box – because of his frigid temperatures. Border Patrol officers have often said that local migrants are taken to sick migrants arrested in the Rio Grande Valley Sector, and the average number of hospital visits per day is 20.
Christopher Cabrera, Vice President of the local union of Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley, I spoke in an interview in April about the disease and illness in the building.
“Most of our agents get sickness,” said Mr Cabrera, who was a Border Patrol agent for 17 years. “There is an infectious disease everywhere. There is always a scaffolding. We usually have pink chicken. There is TB. You name it, it's probably through that building. ”
Border Patrol officers have described migrant movement as a humanitarian crisis which is putting pressure on the agency's resources and diverting from its border security mission. In a statement on May 17, Rodolfo Karisch, chief agent of the Rio Grande Valley Valley Sector Patrol, asked that the four new tent structures be created by two Border Patrol facilities as a "default solution."
“This is what happens when we cannot cope with the influx of incoming migrants,” said Mr Karisch in the statement. “We are doing everything we can to ensure a safe environment for all, but it is clear that we have a real emergency on the border; this is not sustainable. ”
In Washington on Wednesday, there was an increase in the number of deaths of migrant children detained in a heated exchange between Congress members and active Homeland Security secretary, Kevin McAleenan.
Listening to the Homeland House Security Committee, the Representative Lauren Underwood, the Democratic Republic of Illinois, pressed Mr McAleenan on the medical effects of family separations on children, as well as recent migrant deaths in federal custody.
“I like, and the evidence is very clear, that this is no business,” Ms. said. Underwood. “It's no business. It is an objective policy option. ”
“That is a terrible cause for concern,” said Mr McAleenan. “And our men and women are fighting hard to protect people in our custody every day.” T
Committee 9 to 7 voted to remove Ms Underwood's statement from the record.
The White House asked $ 4.5 billion in emergency funds for the South Western border, including almost $ 3 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services to care for unaccompanied minors. Mr McAleenan said at the hearing that the funds would help prevent the death of children in federal custody.
It is intended that migrant children detained from Border Patrol facilities and into Department of Health and Human Services managed shelters will be transferred within three days. However, Carlos was not assigned a shelter bed until six days after his detention.
“Do you know how worried it is that the biggest law enforcement agency is not yet complying with the law?” The Representative Nanette Barragán, Democrat of California said.
Homeland Security officers have said that they must wait for Health and Human Services approval before they transfer children in detention to shelters.
The Democrats oppose the granting of the total amount of emergency funds requested for the border as there is money for additional detention beds, which would be used to retain more immigrants. But in negotiations to get more money for hurricane relief in Puerto Rico, the Democrats offered to allocate extra money for food and humanitarian aid to migrants detained at the border.