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Sights, smells of holding cells for immigrant kids



By CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN and ASTRID GALVAN

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) - Children's faces pressed against glass. Hundreds of young boys and girls covered with aluminum foil-like blankets next to chain link fences topped with barbed wire. The pungent odor that comes with keeping people in close quarters.

These were the scenes Wednesday from tours of crowded Border Patrol stations in South Texas and Arizona, where thousands of immigrants are being held before they are transferred to other shelters around the country.

It was the first time the media was given access to the facilities since President Barack Obama called the more than 47,000 unaccompanied children who have entered the country illegally this budget year an "urgent humanitarian situation."

The surge in minors, mostly from Central America, has overwhelmed the U.S. government.

The children pose a particular challenge because the law requires that they be transferred from Border Patrol stations like the ones in Texas and Arizona to the Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours.

From there, they are sent to shelters for several weeks as the government tries to reunite them with family in the U.S. The network of some 100 shelters around the country has been over capacity for months and is now caring for more than 7,600 children.

The tours were a shift from previous weeks when the government refused to provide basic details about the location of the facilities. But the tours also came with restrictions, such as no interaction with children and no on-the-record conversations with employees.

Inside the Fort Brown station in Brownsville, dozens of young boys were separated from dozens of young girls, with many lying under blankets on concrete floors. Mothers with children still younger were in another cell.

Happier faces could be found in a side yard outside, where young children colored pictures under a camouflage tent.

A group of about a dozen girls of perhaps 5 or 6 sat under another tent outside the shower trailer, dark hair wet and shiny. Women wearing blue gloves combed each girl's hair. Tables held stacks of clean bluejeans, T-shirts and toiletries.

Deeper into the yard, teen girls kicked a soccer ball and tossed a football with workers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In Nogales, Arizona, girls playing soccer with two male border agents shrieked when their ball crossed over the chain link fence and away from the small recreational area covered by a white tent. Others playing basketball cheered on their teammates.

Inside, the approximately 1,000 children in the clean, 120,000-square-foot warehouse were silent.

In a roomy area with teenage boys, a large, high-definition TV playing the World Cup went largely ignored. A small group of boys played soccer, but most lay on tiny mattresses and covered themselves with thin, heat-reflective blankets that looked like aluminum foil.

Chain link fences 15 feet tall and topped with barbed wire separated the children by age and gender.

Federal agents said they could not provide an estimate of the number of minors at the facility because the figure is fluid as children transition in and out.

Authorities at the Nogales station have struggled to adjust to their new role as temporary caretakers.

For example, it took a few days of children rejecting breakfast burritos before agents learned that Central Americans aren't accustomed to flour tortillas. FEMA renegotiated its contract with a food vendor to begin receiving corn tortillas instead.

The children are fed three times a day and take turns by group to use the 200-seat dining area.

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yrsilly June 18 2014 at 10:05 PM

Why isn't Washington as concerned about the tens of thousands of children living in similar proverty situations here in our own country?

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51 replies
ginhaase June 18 2014 at 10:02 PM

send them back where they came from, and hold the parents responsible for abandonment! It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out.
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18 replies
vegasw52 June 18 2014 at 10:06 PM

what is going on in this country. letting children travel unescorted, rumors they are being raped , starved and no shelter ..why would this president obama allowed this mis treatment to children..i have read reporters are not allowed to show photos, and report on this terrible invasion of America... border patrol paid off by drug lords. why is the national guard protecting us.. i read 85 terrorist have crossed the boarder to go to hiddent cells througout the usa. wow children with address of their parents who are also, illegal.. wow wow wow u cant make this up.. GOD SAVE THIS COUNTRY...YES I SAID GOD.....WE ARE BEING INVADED WITH 400,000 WOMEN AND CHILDREN DOES THIS MAKE SENSE?????WHO IS GOING TO PROVIDE FOR THEM//???? AMERICANS THEMSELVES CANT AFFORD TO LIVE HERE WHO WILL PROVIDE FOR THEM////????

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28 replies
wagennet June 18 2014 at 10:15 PM

Send them back before we have all of South America here ILLEGALLY.

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16 replies
lnl80388 June 18 2014 at 10:30 PM

Send them and their parents and every illegal Back. EVERY ONE OF THEM!
Be here legally or not at all!

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13 replies
FRAN June 18 2014 at 10:33 PM

It's a very sad day when our own leaders, namely our own president and his administration headed this or at the very least provoked it. Parents in Mexico and other South American sent their children over here to receive the freebies...health care, etc. Yet Obama has done nothing to stop it, he has actually allowed this to happen. It has been reported that Border Patrols have been ordered not to talk about this matter. Basically, the border is open and the illegals know it. This is bad for Americans...it comes out of your pay checks to care for them via taxes, it's dangerous because of disease brought into this country, and also ups the chances of terrorists coming into our country. Trying to connect these children to their families? Really? Then the government MUST have known all along that these particular children belong to someone in the USA and now they search for them to get them united. Gee...I wonder why! What political party stands to gain from this I must ask?

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50 replies
lnl80388 June 18 2014 at 10:35 PM

I am so done paying for freeloaders. I pay my way and ask nothing from the tax payers.
These people need to go back where they came from and fix their problems in their own country.
American now needs to fix our own
The idiots in America voted for change and now we have that and it must be corrected.
Time to stop this liberal BS and take this country back!

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35 replies
rjackson2a June 18 2014 at 10:35 PM

To call criminal border jumpers immigrants is a slap in the face to all who have immigrated to this country thru the proper channels.

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29 replies
msbollig June 18 2014 at 10:30 PM

As always, our valiant leader, Mr. Obama, flunks International Relations 101 for this situation and all the others going on around the world. Our government is a disaster, but in the end, the US cannot solve all of the world's problems. We can't even begin to address all of ours at home. It's so nice to have such a wishy washy president who has no idea what he stands for.

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12 replies
combatpainter June 18 2014 at 10:00 PM

If enough foreign parents see this, they may stopped shipping their kids over.

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33 replies
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