Eleven mothers with babies ranging from 5 to 11 months old arrived at the South Texas Family Residential Center last week, legal-aid group Dilley Pro Bono Project told MySanAntonio.com.
Dilley Pro Bono interviewed eight of the mothers, all of whom said their babies were sick. The mothers said the children were losing weight and vomiting, coughing and having trouble breathing, according to the report.
In an email to the Current, DHS acknowledged that it had experienced an upswing in the number of infants held in its facilities, the result of more family units crossing the border. As of March 1, 2019, there are 17 infants under one year old at the Dilley site, it confirmed.
In a letter filled with footnotes referencing medical studies, Physicians for Human Rights warned that government detention centers are not equipped to care for sick infants. Staying in the facilities also is likely to hinder the children's development, it argues.
“Infancy is a time of critical brain development," the letter states. "A large body of research demonstrates that early childhood adversity and stress, such as conditions infants are exposed to in detention, can have significant detrimental impacts on the developing infant brain, with long-lasting and negative consequences."
DHS, however, said that it takes seriously the health of those in its care.
The department's centers "provide a safe location for family units encountered by the Border Patrol as they are processed for release into the United States with notices to appear in immigration court," the agency stated in its email. "ICE ensures that these residential centers operate in an open environment, which includes medical care, play rooms, social workers, educational services, and access to legal counsel."
In addition to asking for the release of the infants, Physicians for Human Rights is asking DHS to develop alternatives to incarcerating the infants of detained immigrant families.
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