State Health Officials Concerned With Conditions Inside Living Facilities For Unaccompanied Minors

Jun 26, 2014

Last week the Texas Department of State Health Services toured U.S. Customs and Border Patrol facilities where thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America are living.

While the department has no jurisdiction over the Fort Brown Detention Center in Brownsville and the McAllen Station Detention Center, DSHS Media Relations Director Carrie Williams said they have been able to provide technical assistance and vaccines.

“We also went onsite to two of the facilities to observe the living conditions of the children. It is a situation that we believe the conditions create a perfect storm for disease outbreaks,” Williams said.

Williams said in their opinion the conditions they witnessed were not healthy for children, and as a whole they are concerned about the public health aspect of the situation.

"Some of the items that we saw that we believe would be a problem are just the severe overcrowding conditions in potential for outbreak, there were toilets in cells where children eat and sleep, there were inadequate handwashing facilities, there’s a lack of true medical screenings going on and also just the issue of a lack of rest,” Williams said.

Williams said at the two facilities state health officials visited there wasn’t enough space for children to lie down and in many cases the children had to sleep directly on a concrete floor.  

She said the department has recommended federal officials immediately address these issues and increase the U.S. Centers for Disease Control involvement because many of these children are leaving these holding facilities to be placed with family or within a special foster-care refugee system.