Lawyers say border officials barred them from visiting 'sickest' children at migrant facility

The lawyers who brought attention to the conditions at a migrant detention center in Clint, Texas, told Newsweek in an interview published Monday that they were barred from seeing the "sickest" children at the facility.

"We asked if we could visit with children who were sick and who had been ill for a few days because our understanding was that there was an area of the facility called the 'sick area' or the 'sick ward' and so, we said we wanted to see those children," Human Rights Watch U.S. Program Executive Director Nicole Austin-Hillery said.

ADVERTISEMENT

"We wanted to see how those children, who are most vulnerable right now, how they are being treated and being cared for," she said.

She said Customs and Border Protection agents refused to grant the lawyers access to the area.

"We were prohibited from seeing those children and we were told it was for our own safety," Austin-Hillery said.

"We told them, 'we don't care. We're not concerned about catching a cold,' " she said.

Austin-Hillery and other lawyers said in an Associated Press report last month that conditions in the detention facility were filthy, with children going without bathing for weeks and alleging that they were fed meals that included uncooked frozen food or rice.

A federal judge ordered last week that the Trump administration must allow medical professionals access to detention facilities in the El Paso and Rio Grande Valley sectors holding migrant children in response to the report.

Austin-Hillery described the conditions at the facility in more detail, including the lack of sanitation and food.

"When I asked when was the last time you bathed, most of them said it had been days. When I asked if they had been given clean clothes, some said they were wearing the clothes that they arrived in," she told Newsweek. "I asked if they had been brushing their teeth regularly and I was told, no, that they were brushing their teeth but not on a daily basis."

"Many said they were hungry," Austin-Hillery added. "There were several who looked like they hadn't been getting enough sleep. Their eyes were closing."

The Hill has reached out to Customs and Border Protection for comment.