Conditions inside US border facilities have been described as “perilous”, as the outcry from image of a father and his daughter, who drowned trying to get into the US, continues to dominate US politics.
The heartbreaking images of the bodies of Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria, who were found on the bank of the Rio Grande, have cast a shadow over US immigration policy.
There is growing anger and concern too over the treatment of children who do make it to the US.
With 2,000 children being held one Customs and Border Protection official admitted that the agency is “in a crisis mode”.
By law, Customs is required to turn children over to the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which runs shelters and camps where kids wait to be reunited with family or sponsors.
The father, who is speaking anonymously so as not to harm his chances of a reunion, says his daughter has been taken from facility to facility, including one which described by lawyers as having inadequate food, water and sanitation.
The child was put in contact with her father last week when lawyers toured the facilities in Clint, Texas.
They say she was hysterical, despondent and unkempt when she was found and burst into tears when questioned.
Her father was able to be contacted after his phone number was found on a bracelet she was wearing, labelled “US parent”.
He told reporters that she told him she had been made to sleep on the floor as a punishment for losing a lice comb that was given to the children in her cell.
He said: “I haven’t slept because every day that goes by that I can’t talk to her, I think, ‘What if I am sleeping well and she’s doing so badly alone in there?’ This is terrifying.”
The family’s lawyer, Amy Maldonado, claims that there are violations of the Flore’s Settlement, which legally requires safe and clean detention for migrant children and families, and said they plan to file a complaint in court, requesting an emergency Temporary Restraining Order and preliminary injunction if the girl is not released to her parents.
Ms Maldonado said: “She was forced to sleep on the tile floor as punishment for losing a comb. I want to find the name of the officer who did that to her.”
The girl has also been carted around from site to site in the space of four days.
On Sunday, it was reported that she moved to a shelter in Combes in Texas – a 12-hour-drive from Clint.
However, her move was cancelled and she was driven all the way back so she could be moved to a shelter in San Antonio.
There was then another decision made to mover her to a shelter in El Paso, and then again to San Antonio.
During her four-day ordeal, she had no communication with her parents.
Despite reports that around 230 children had been removed from Clint, border force decided this week to begin using the facility as a holding centre for children before they could be placed somewhere more comfortable.
The girl’s parents have lived and worked in the US for years, and congressional staff have said she is meant to return to them.
She was left in the care of her aunt in her native El Salvador after her parents fled gang violence.
However, its reported that her aunt’s relationship turned abusive, so she decided to bring the girl to the US in the hope that she would be better off with her parents.
Instead, her parents had no idea where she was for days, according to Ms Maldonado.
The girl’s father said: “I want to change the way they treat children in this country. They should treat them well and make sure they’re with their parents.
“I keep telling her she will be released and we can be together, but the days keep going by and she thinks I’m lying to her.”
Source: SKY NEWS