Reaction to images of immigrant children in border facilities - CBS 3 Springfield - WSHM

Residents, border patrol union react to images of immigrant children in border facilities

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NOGALES, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

After repeated requests, reporters got a chance to go inside the border facility housing hundreds of immigrant children in Nogales, Arizona and Brownsville, Texas.

Border patrol officials allowed reporters to tour the facilities but did not allow everyone except for designated reporters to be the "pool" cameras and take photos and video inside the facility.

Officials said 900 Central American Children are housed inside border patrol facilities in Nogales right now.

These are children who crossed the border illegally from countries like Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. 

The photos depict a large warehouse, with row upon row of mattresses on the ground.  The children appear to be sleeping with Mylar thermal blankets and had no pillows.  Border patrol officials told reporters there was a reason for that but asked us to email the Public Information Office for the answer.

The children are separated by race and gender.  There were several holding facilities, and areas for women and children as well.

Officials said the children were provided six Central American meals a day.  They had access to clean bathrooms, hot showers, recreational activities, and were getting immunizations as well.

Tucson News Now showed the pictures to advocates who fight for immigration rights.  Laurie Melrood with Casa Mariposa said the conditions appeared to be "jail-like."  She was concerned about the thin blankets the children were using, blankets that resembled tin foil.

Melrood said women and children she had spoken to when they were dropped off at the Greyhound bus station in Tucson had told her their sweaters, wraps, and hoodies were taken away.  Many of them said they had been cold inside the facility.

Melrood also worried about the lack of psychological and emotional support available for these children.

"My concern is how long will it take for them to unite with families and people they know.  It's a humanitarian crisis.  It seems to me much less adequate than what they should provide for kids who have been in trauma, and children who have been through painful journies, and what they have left behind," said Melrood.

Carl Lawson, a businessman from Apache Junction wanted to know why federal officials were not letting people donate items for the children.

His group wanted to donate 10,000 pillows for the children, and he felt there should not be red tape involved in something like this.

"This is not a day care.  This is a prison.  These are children who are in a prison, that is why security is so tight.  It's not set up for this," said Lawson.

Lawson said while he was frustrated with the politics of the whole immigration crisis, he felt the children should not be caught up in this.  His message to our nation's leaders, "Quit golfing.  If I can come down here so can you.  Come down here, lay your eyes on this, and do something about it."

Art Del Cueto, president of the Local 2544 Border Patrol Union also toured the facility and said he had talked to many of the children housed there.

"The agents are doing their best," said Del Cueto.

Del Cueto said he was concerned about security, as many agents had been removed from the field to work in the facility housing the children.

"If you remove one agent, that is too many," said Del Cueto.

He addressed reporters and said,"

"You asked where is the breaking point.  The American people need to realize, the breaking point is now.  The agents have realized that breaking point quite some time ago."

Del Cueto said the immigrants should be transported back to their countries of origin.

"El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras, that's where they came from. I don't think we need to release them out here in the United States.  Mexico has to take some responsibility because all these individuals are coming through their country."

Del Cueto said some of the children had told him they had paid bribes to government authorities in Mexico to allow them to pass through the country.

"60% are saying they are coming because their families are already here.  They were told by religious groups and the media now is the time to come, this would be a free ticket.  We know that El Salvador has had violence for a long time.  What has triggered this to happen now?" said Del Cueto.

He added that agents were frustrated that so many people were crossing the border illegally, minors or not.  This was a bit hit on immigration and the people who were trying to become citizens legally.

Border patrol officials say the children will be at the Nogales facility temporarily.  They will be transported to military facilities located throughout the country where they could be reunited with family or sent back to their countries, that is unclear at this time.

Copyright 2014 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

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