Migrants in US custody describe life in 'ice boxes' and 'dog pounds'

July 18 (Reuters) - During their detention last month in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in Laredo, Texas, Karen and her two young sons were constantly cold. The family, which fled violence in Honduras, slept on a hard floor in a holding cell without mattresses, she said, their clothes still wet from crossing the Rio Grande.

“I can only hold one at a time to keep them warm. Whoever I am not holding is cold,” she said in one of more than 200 sworn statements filed this week in a long-running lawsuit challenging conditions for children in immigration custody.

The statements, which were taken in June and July and identify immigrants only by their first names, provide a rare window into life in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities. Migrants like Karen and her children who crossed into the United States illegally, as well as those who applied for asylum at the border, are often held in such facilities before being released or transferred to longer-term detention centers.

A nursing mother named Serafin, who said she fled Mexico after a cartel member threatened to rape her and kill her baby, said she was given too little food at a facility in San Ysidro, California.

“I am not producing enough breast milk to feed my baby because I am not eating enough,” she said in her statement. “My daughter cries a lot because she is hungry.”

SEE ALSO: Joe Biden says he's ‘ashamed’ of Trump's border policy

A woman named Mayra said her 9-year-old son became fearful after their detention in Nogales, Arizona, where he saw children separated from their parents.

“He saw someone bound with chains and asked me whether I would be chained in the same way," she said. “He wonders when we will get to the United States. I do not tell him that we are already here. He wouldn't believe that the United States would treat us this way.”

21 PHOTOS
Inside a migrant shelter on the US-Mexico border
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Inside a migrant shelter on the US-Mexico border
Migrant Jeber Hernandez, 14, from El Salvador, who hopes to make it to Los Angeles, stands in the chapel at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Migrants eat dinner at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Gilda Loureiro, who runs the Juan Bosco migrant shelter, cooks meals for migrants, in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Migrants eat dinner at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
The bag of a seven-year-old Honduran migrant, whose family members fear for their lives, is seen at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter where they are staying before attempting to cross the border to the U.S., in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Haitian migrant Volter Petiblen, 24, (R) reads his phone at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Mexican migrant Sergio Medrano, 30, sits in the chapel at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter after being deported from the U.S., in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Mexican migrant Jose Angel Garcia, 42, holds a crucifix he made as he waits at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter after being deported from the U.S. following two years in an immigration detention center, in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Gilda Loureiro, who runs the Juan Bosco migrant shelter, stands in one of the shelter's dormitories, in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A migrant talks to his family at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017 REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Migrant Jever Danilo, 14, from El Salvador, who hopes to make it to Los Angeles, stands in the chapel at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Migrants arrive at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter after being deported from the U.S., in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Rosary beads left by migrants are seen in the chapel at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017 REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Haitian migrant Volter Petiblen, 24, looks out at Nogalas from the Juan Bosco migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Mexican migrant Jose Angel Garcia, 42, shows a photo of his mother as he waits at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter after being deported from the U.S. following two years in an immigration detention center, in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017 REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Mexican migrant Jaime Manuel Perez Mancinas, 31, holds the hand of a three-year-old Honduran refugee as he waits at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter after being deported from the U.S. following two years in an immigration detention center, in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Religious keepsakes left by migrants are seen in the chapel at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Haitian migrant Volter Petiblen, 24, (R) waits for dinner at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
The Juan Bosco migrant shelter is seen in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Religious keepsakes left by migrants are seen in the chapel at the Juan Bosco migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017 REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
Haitian migrant Volter Petiblen, 24, reads his phone at a the Juan Bosco migrant shelter in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, February 1, 2017. Picture taken February 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
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LONG-RUNNING LAWSUIT

The statements were taken by attorneys for plaintiffs in a case brought against the U.S. government in 1985 on behalf of 15-year-old Jenny L. Flores. A 1997 settlement in the lawsuit set standards for humane treatment of children in detention and ordered their prompt release in most cases.

This week, the plaintiffs filed papers alleging that the detention conditions described in the declarations violate the humane treatment standards set out in the settlement, including speedy release of children.

"We now see many in CBP custody for three to six days,” up from two to three days in prior months, said Peter Schey, the lead attorney for plaintiffs in the Flores case.

Reuters was unable to speak directly to the migrants who gave declarations because they weren't fully identified in the filing, and most of them are still in detention.

CBP referred requests for comment on the migrant statements to the Department of Justice, which declined to comment. In the past, CBP has defended conditions in its facilities.

In a report filed in the Flores case last month, CBP juvenile coordinator Henry Moak Jr. said that the department makes extensive efforts "to ensure all minors in CBP custody are treated with dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors."

He said parents and children he interviewed had "received meals and snacks; had access to drinking water, functioning toilets, and functioning sinks; and were held in rooms that were maintained at an appropriate temperature."

He also noted, however, that CBP should ensure that food was not kept past its expiration date and that custodial data was consistently entered into records.

Moak referred requests for comment to CBP.

60 PHOTOS
Thousands nationwide protest family separations at U.S.-Mexico border
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Thousands nationwide protest family separations at U.S.-Mexico border
Demonstrators carrying signs, including one reading "Save America", march during the "Families Belong Together" rally in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., June 30, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Demonstrators carrying signs reading "Abolish ICE" and "I Really Do Care", referencing the coat recently worn by First Lady Melania Trump, march during the "Families Belong Together" rally in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., June 30, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
Demonstrators gather on the Boston Common during the "Families Belong Together" rally in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., June 30, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during the "Families Belong Together" rally in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., June 30, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during the "Families Belong Together" rally in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., June 30, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: People take part during the nationwide 'Families Belong Together' march as they walk by the Brooklyn Bridge on June 30, 2018 in New York City. As thousands of migrant children remain separated from family, rallies are planned across the U.S. calling for them be reunited. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: People take part during the nationwide 'Families Belong Together' march as they walk by the Brooklyn Bridge on June 30, 2018 in New York City. As thousands of migrant children remain separated from family, rallies are planned across the U.S. calling for them be reunited. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: People take part during the nationwide 'Families Belong Together' march as they walk by the Brooklyn Bridge on June 30, 2018 in New York City. As thousands of migrant children remain separated from family, rallies are planned across the U.S. calling for them be reunited. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: People take part during the nationwide 'Families Belong Together' march as they walk by the Brooklyn Bridge on June 30, 2018 in New York City. As thousands of migrant children remain separated from family, rallies are planned across the U.S. calling for them be reunited. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: People take part during the nationwide 'Families Belong Together' march as they walk by the Brooklyn Bridge on June 30, 2018 in New York City. As thousands of migrant children remain separated from family, rallies are planned across the U.S. calling for them be reunited. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: People take part during the nationwide 'Families Belong Together' march as they walk by the Brooklyn Bridge on June 30, 2018 in New York City. As thousands of migrant children remain separated from family, rallies are planned across the U.S. calling for them be reunited. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: People take part during the nationwide 'Families Belong Together' march as they walk by the Brooklyn Bridge on June 30, 2018 in New York City. As thousands of migrant children remain separated from family, rallies are planned across the U.S. calling for them be reunited. (Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march in support of families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on June 30, 2018 in New York, New York. Across the country marches under the banner 'Families Belong Together' are being held to demand that the Trump administration reunite thousands of immigrant children who have been separated from their families after crossing into the United States. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: (EDITORS NOTE: Image contains profanity.) A Demonstrator participates in the Families Belong Together - Freedom For Immigrants March at Los Angeles City Hall on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: Demonstrators participates in the Families Belong Together - Freedom For Immigrants March at Los Angeles City Hall on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: Demonstrators participates in the Families Belong Together - Freedom For Immigrants March at Los Angeles City Hall on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: Demonstrators participates in the Families Belong Together - Freedom For Immigrants March at Los Angeles City Hall on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: A demonstrator participates in the Families Belong Together - Freedom For Immigrants March at Los Angeles City Hall on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: A demonstrator participates in the Families Belong Together - Freedom For Immigrants March at Los Angeles City Hall on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sarah Morris/Getty Images)
People hold placards during a 'Familes Belong Together' march and rally in Los Angeles, California on June 30, 2018 where a thousands turned out to decry the Trump administration's detention of families policy at the US Mexico border. - Thousands of demonstrators, baking in the heat and opposed to the US immigration policy, marched across the country Saturday, June 30, 2018 to protest the separation of families under President Donald Trump's hardline agenda. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
People hold placards during a 'Familes Belong Together' march and rally in Los Angeles, California on June 30, 2018 where a thousands turned out to decry the Trump administration's detention of families policy at the US Mexico border. - Thousands of demonstrators, baking in the heat and opposed to the US immigration policy, marched across the country Saturday, June 30, 2018 to protest the separation of families under President Donald Trump's hardline agenda. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Demonstrators march against the separation of immigrant families, on June 30, 2018 in New York. - Demonstrations are being held across the US Saturday against President Donald Trump's hardline immigration policy. (Photo by EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ / AFP) (Photo credit should read EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON,DC-JUNE30: Lauren Unterberger, 16, from Wilmington, DE, protests against family separation in Lafayette Square in Washington, DC, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON,DC-JUNE30: Sufia Bassett, 32, from Bethlehem, PA, originally from Equador, protests against family separation in Lafayette Square in Washington, DC, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Anarchist elements move into the streets after the rally ends in order to draw more attention to the criminalization and dehumanization of immigrant communities during protests in Philadelphia, Pa on June 30, 2018. (Photo by Cory Clark/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON,DC-JUNE30: Lara Carlson, 50, from Maine, protests against family separation in Lafayette Square in Washington, DC, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON,DC-JUNE30: Lauren Unterberger, 16, from Wilmington, DE, protests against family separation in Lafayette Square in Washington, DC, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Protesters stand outside the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families in Irvine on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Protesters stand outside the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families in Irvine on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march from Portola High School in Irvine to the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Marisa Esparza, 19, of Orange, walks with her sign outside the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families in Irvine on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march down Irvine Blvd. from Portola High School in Irvine to the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march from Portola High School in Irvine to the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march from Portola High School in Irvine to the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: People line the stadium at Portola High School during a rally to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families, in Irvine on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: Thousands of people march from Portola High School in Irvine to the James A. Musick Facility, a detention center that houses unauthorized immigrants, to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: U.S. Representative Lou Correa applauds holocaust survivor Margaret Houffelaar, 91, of Laguna Woods, during a rally at Portola High School Saturday to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families in Irvine on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
One-year-old Yara Pejan sits by a sign that refers to Trump's immigration policy separating children from their parents, during a rally in Laguna Beach on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Mindy Schauer/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 30: People line the stadium at Portola High School during a rally to protest President Trump's immigration policies and demand children be reunited with their families, in Irvine on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 30: A pro-Trump counter demonstrator holds a sign toward protesters decrying Trump administration immigration and refugee policies on June 30, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. Although President Trump was forced to reverse his policy of removing all children from their immigrant or asylum-seeking parents, little clarity appears to be seen as to how agencies can fulfill a court order to reunite thousands of children and parents detained far apart by multiple agencies. Yesterday, the Justice Department filed papers in a Los Angeles federal court to have families arrested for illegal border crossings incarcerated together indefinitely. The rally is one of more than 700 such protests being held throughout the nation. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
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'ICE BOXES' AND 'DOG POUNDS'

Reports of harsh conditions in CBP facilities have surfaced repeatedly for years, including again recently when the government began separating children and parents. The new declarations are remarkable both for the number of detainee voices and the consistency of detail in what they report.

While a few immigrants said that conditions were adequate, most described cold temperatures, too little food, difficult separations from their children and crowded cells without enough sleeping mats. They said latrines were dirty and lacked privacy and that lights stayed on day and night.

James Tomsheck, who served as assistant commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection for internal affairs from 2006 to 2014, told Reuters that the facilities were designed for brief stays.

"There is no question that the amount of time persons are being held at these, what are designed to be temporary detention facilities, has become much longer than it was intended."

Detainees refer to some of the facilities as “hieleras,” Spanish for “ice boxes” because they are so cold. Larger spaces with indoor fencing are referred to as "perreras" or “dog pounds.”

Children in the facilities were often held in separate cells from their parents, according to the statements.

A woman named Leydi, held in Chula Vista, California, described watching young children trying to touch their parents through metal fences.

“The mothers tried to reach their children, and I saw children pressing up against the fence of the cage to try to reach out," she said. "But officials pulled the children away and yelled at their mothers."

John Sandweg, acting director of ICE from 2013 to 2014, said the problems stem from the fact that holding areas were designed to lock up adults for just a few hours while CBP processed paperwork.

“They’re inappropriate, frankly, for children,” he said.

 

(Additional reporting by Scot Paltrow in New York; Editing by Sue Horton and Marla Dickerson)

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