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Pediatricians Release Migrant Children’s Drawings of Their Time Spent in US Border Prisons

The disturbing images were drawn by migrant children separated from their parents while in US custody.



(TMU) — Pediatricians have shared harrowing images drawn by migrant children separated from their parents while in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention camps that show people in prison-like conditions.

The drawings were released by a social worker at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas to the American Academy of Pediatrics, who released them on Wednesday to U.S. media outlets. The shelter is the first place where many families can take their first shower, receive a clean change of clothes and a hot meal after their arduous trek across the border.

One drawing was by an 11-year-old boy from Guatemala, another was by a 10-year-old from Guatemala, and the third was by a different 10-year-old whose national origin is unknown.

Dr. Sara Goza, the incoming president of the academy who toured the CBP camps last week told NBC News that the images reveal the dire and inhumane conditions in which the children are being confined. She explained:

“Children do not belong in Customs and Border Protection facilities, or in any detention facilities.

No amount of time spent in these facilities is safe for children.

More children will continue to die if we do not make sure that every child who passes through federal custody is seen by a pediatric-trained medical professional.

I personally toured two CBP facilities and did not encounter a single pediatrician at either one.”

Pictures drawn by migrant children at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas. Photo: AAP


The past president of the AAP, Dr. Colleen Kraft, corroborated Goza’s observations to CNN, explaining:

“The fact that the drawings are so realistic and horrific gives us a view into what these children have experienced.

When a child draws this, it’s telling us that child felt like he or she was in jail.”

Noting that pediatricians are eager to assist the children, Kraft added:

“We have pediatricians who would volunteer to go to the border tomorrow and work with these children and advise medical personnel and train them.

That’s still our ask, but it’s gotten nowhere.”

The group had initially held a series of meetings with CBP leadership after urging the agency to place child heath care professionals at the border to train CBP medical personnel. According to Kraft, the meetings came to an end after the federal agency failed to follow through with AAP recommendations.

Goza was appalled during her tour of two border facilities by the fact that she “did not encounter a single pediatrician” at either one. During her visit to the CBP Central Processing Center in McAllen known as Ursula, Goza explained:

“The first thing that hit me when we walked in the door was the smell … the smell of sweat, urine and feces.

 And I heard crinkling to my left and I looked over there and it was a sea of silver … there were young children, boys in there. Unaccompanied boys in there.”

The doctor described a room filled with children between 10 and 12 years old that was silent beside the rustling of mylar blankets, “and they had no expression on their faces, there was no laughing, there was no joking, no talking.”

“They were quiet, and just staring, blankly … There were just blank stares and no expressions on their faces.

I describe them almost like dog cages with people in each of them … And the silence was just hard to watch, hard to see.”

In his characteristically callous fashion, President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that CBP personnel are “not hospital workers, doctors or nurses,” adding in a separate tweet that if the migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees—whom he referred to pejoratively as “illegal aliens”—“are unhappy with the conditions in the quickly built or refitted detentions centers, just tell them not to come … All problems solved!”

Dr. Carlos Gutierrez of the nonprofit Annunciation House in El Paso explained that migrants who are taken into U.S. custody regularly have their medications seized. “It’s just not right. That’s not the way to practice good medicine,” he said.

Gutierrez also noted that contact between “whoever is providing the medical care” in the camps and “us on the outside” is prohibited. He added:

“That is not medical care. That’s malpractice … It’s very upsetting and I hope to God that this changes quickly.”

Kraft explained:

“CBP agents are police. They’re law enforcement. They have an important job to do, but they’re not trained to take care of children.”

Another pediatrician who visited the McAllen CBP warehouse, Dr. Dolly Sevier, evaluated dozens of children who had fallen ill at the Ursula facility, which she also said smelled like body odor and soiled clothing.

Sevier, who believes that the role of the pediatrician should include “being the voice for the kid, the advocate,” saw evidence across the facility of widespread infection, malnutrition, dehydration, sleep deprivation and psychological trauma among the imprisoned children. She said that two-thirds of the children she examined had clear symptoms of respiratory infection.

Sevier spent much of her day at the South Texas facility demanding to see a three-year-old girl, but a guard made excuses as to why he could not produce “the body,” as he referred to the child.

In an informative article about the visit published by Atlantic Magazine, journalist Jeremy Raff explained:

“At 5:53, the guard with the surgical mask brought in the 3-year-old Sevier had requested to see, holding her by the armpits, like a puppy. Thin and subdued, the girl was crying but didn’t turn away. ‘Underweight, fearful child in no acute distress,’ Sevier wrote. ‘Only concern is severe trauma being suffered from being removed from primary caregiver.’

After the exam, the child lingered, and Sevier offered to hold her. She climbed into the doctor’s lap and fell asleep in less than a minute. The squalor, the lighting, the agents, and the event that evening fell away from Sevier’s consciousness. As if in rebellion against her careful training, her mind shut down, she told me. And for what seemed like an eternity, she sat in vacant silence with the child.”

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons |

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