Federal Judge Orders Trump Admin to Allow Medical Professionals into Immigrant Children Detention Centers

Published on June 30, 2019 by Athena Pallas

A federal judge has ruled that the Trump administration’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) must allow medical professionals into detention centers holding immigrant children. The detention centers covered by U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee’s ruling are all of CBP’s facilities in the El Paso and Rio Grande Valley sectors, the state of which is the subject of a lawsuit over allegations of unsafe and unsanitary conditions at those facilities which could constitute violations of the 1997 Flores agreement. The Flores agreement also dictates that immigrant children can only be held in detention for a maximum of 72 hours before being released to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), but children have reportedly been kept under these questionable conditions for weeks at a time.

Now, with Judge Gee’s ruling, outside medical professionals will be able to evaluate the health and safety of children in these immigrant detention facilities. According to The Hill:

A federal judge has ordered U.S. Customs and Border Protection to allow medical professionals into detention facilities holding migrant children, CNN reported Sunday. U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee ordered that health professionals be allowed in the facilities to ensure the conditions are “safe and sanitary” for children being detained there and to assess the children’s medical needs. …Prosecutors had requested immediate action to address conditions they said threaten the wellbeing of children. …Last week prosecutors asked the court to hold the Trump administration in contempt and take immediate action to remedy unsafe conditions at border facilities. “The children, including infants and expectant mothers, are dirty, cold, hungry and sleep-deprived,” prosecutors said, referring to conditions at detention centers including one in Clint, Texas. 

In an earlier ruling Judge Gee on Friday also ordered that an independent monitor must be appointed by July 12 to assess conditions at these facilities and ensure that any issues are promptly remedied. The Trump administration has a duty of care for anyone they are detaining, especially vulnerable children, and these allegations of neglecting that duty of care, allegations which partially come from the eye witness observations of people who have managed to gain entry to see the conditions, are alarming. Yet the Trump administration has frequently appeared to take a cavalier attitude toward the allegations with, for example, Department of Justice senior litigation counsel Sarah Fabian testifying before a congressional committee that basic sanitary needs, like soap and toothbrushes, were not necessary for these children.

The American Bar Association (ABA) has already condemned the Trump administration for its treatment of immigrant children, with ABA President Bob Carlson saying in a statement on Tuesday, according to The Hill, “The American Bar Association is appalled by credible reports of hundreds of children being held in unsafe and unhealthy conditions in violation of federal and state law, court settlements and common decency.”

Featured image by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.