Mid-September, 2023

As NBC News, the Hill, and CBS news have reported in September, migrant children were forced to be separated from their parents while in CBP custody. A pediatrician associated with Stanford University, Dr, Paul Wise, interviewed families from the facility in Donna,Texas this August and found that many children, some as young as 8 years old, were separated from their parents for up to 4 days. 

The Flores Settlement Agreement of 1993 previously ruled that “minors may not be held in immigration detention for more than 72 hours in most cases”. Exceptions to this rule are largely due to medical circumstances. Reports have shown, however, that minors traveling as part of family units are often detained alone more often and for longer periods of times than unaccompanied minors.There were 737 minors who traveled as part of family units in July. Of these minors, 697 were held between three to five days, 39 were held for longer than 5 days, and there were 15 minors who were held for more than 14 days. 

While it was reported that Border Patrol was providing basic necessities to the children in custody, some children were receiving adult meals and some families were not being provided sleeping mats while they were in custody. 

These violations, CBP stated in their official report about the investigation, are rising from overcrowding in CBP “pods”, or groups in which children are placed. When pods are overcrowded, CBP makes an assessment of a child’s age and gender and places them in a pod of children with similar backgrounds.  

In his 71-page report, Dr. Wise noted these separations could affect the children’s mental health. After interviewing some of the children, he wrote there was “significant emotional distress related to separation, including sustained crying and disorientation”. This largely arose from their inability to communicate with their parents. In many cases, he notes, both the children and their detention caretakers in the facility were unaware of their visitation rights, which grants families the right to request to see each other while in custody. 

While these separations have not been permanent, Dr. Wise’s report reveals that even temporary separations have caused emotional distress for these families.

Montoya-Galvez, Camilo. “U.S. Border Agents Are Separating Migrant Children from Their Parents to Avoid Overcrowding, Inspector Finds – CBS News.” CBS News, September 16, 2023. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/migrant-children-separated-parents-u-s-border-agents-overcrowding/.
Bernal, Rafael. “Children Separated at US-Mexico Border Had ‘No Interaction’ with Their Parents: Report.” Text. The Hill, September 18, 2023. https://thehill.com/latino/4210694-children-separated-at-us-mexico-border-had-no-interaction-with-their-parents-report/.
Ainsley, Julia. “Border Patrol Temporarily Separated Families This Summer, Court Filing Says.” NBC News, September 18, 2023. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/border-patrol-temporarily-separated-families-summer-court-filing-says-rcna105524.

Sector(s): Border Patrol, CBP, El Paso, Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Family Separation

Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Family Unit