Unaccompanied immigrant children who are being held in federal custody are not getting adequate food or emergency medical care, and are suffering from chicken pox, scabies, and lice, according to an investigative report released Thursday by the Department of Homeland Security.
The report from the Office of Inspector General outlines conditions found by inspectors who arrived unannounced at five temporary housing facilities between July 1 and July 16. The facilities are located in Tucson, Ariz., El Paso and Houston in Texas, and El Centro and San Diego in California.
According to the report, federal investigators “used the checklist, along with observations and interviews” to evaluate how unaccompanied children who have been taken into custody in the United States are being treated.
“When feasible, we ensured that immediate action was taken to correct deficiencies noted during site visits,” the report summary continues.
Among the problems discovered, children and their families often need treatment for diseases, “including respiratory illnesses, tuberculosis, chicken pox, and scabies.”
Bathroom facilities were found to be unsanitary, water is not potable, sinks and toilets are not “operable and sanitary.”
“In one location, we observed that contractors did not provide an adequate amount of food,” according to investigators. In some housing facilities, employees report that they’re buying food with their own money to supplement what is given to the children. They are also reportedly “donating clothing, toys and games.”
Additionally, the report states that “temperatures in DHS facilities were inconsistent. In some facilities, DHS employees cannot adjust the thermostats.”
All five of the facilities named in the report are located in Southwestern states that are experiencing extreme summer heat in July. On Thursday, the temperature in El Centro, Calif., where one of the inspected facilities is located, reached a high of 113 degrees.
Investigators outlined a list of recommendations for the facilities, but did not specify which exact location was non-compliant with which issues.
The report shines some light on the bureaucratic difficulties that federal agencies are dealing with in trying to accommodate the large influx of children into the U.S.
The Department of Homeland Security is keeping unaccompanied children in federal custody “longer than 72 hours because no permanent shelter is available,” according to the report.
Some facilities are also struggling to maintain an adequate ratio of staff-to-child, with certain locations only having one employee for every 25 children.
Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children have been flooding the U.S. border from Central America, without parents or documentation, causing the Department of Homeland Security to declare a crisis and open temporary shelters in multiple states.
A $3.5 billion bill to address the crisis failed to pass in the U.S. Senate on Thursday on a procedural vote, falling short of the 60 votes needed. The vote came just hours before the Senate adjourns for a five-week recess.