More than 4,500 migrant children — mostly teenage boys — in Fort Bliss, Texas, are being held in enormous tents in unsanitary “filthy” conditions according to an investigation conducted by Reason.
“If you took a poll, probably about 98 percent of the federal workers here would say it’s appalling,” a federal employee detailed to the facility told Reason. “Everybody tries in their own way to quietly disobey and get things done, but it can be difficult.”
Those federal employees have neither the skills nor the training to care for so many kids. The Fort Bliss shelter is part of the Biden administration’s “shell game” of moving kids from Customs and Border protection facilities at the border to more than 200 shelters at arenas, auditoriums, and military bases, mostly in the Southwest.
Recordings obtained by Reason reveal the stress the influx of unaccompanied minors has put on the federal government. They also reveal that leaders at the shelter are well aware that they are failing to provide basic necessities, including medical care and physical safety, to the children under its supervision.
Federal employees detailed to the Fort Bliss shelter, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reason they are working 12-hour shifts six days a week. Basic forms and equipment, including lice kits, are in short supply, and frustration is mounting.
“I’m not going to lie, we’ve got people dropping like flies because it’s just not something that they’re used to,” the trainer says in the recording, which Reason is not releasing to protect the source’s identity. “This facility is growing so fast, and we are getting kids on a daily basis. We don’t have enough staff to maintain.”
But there’s no crisis, right Joe?
“I’ve been into one dorm, one time, and I was like, yeah, I’m not going back there,” the trainer says. “They’re filthy. They’re dirty. There’s food on the floor. There’s wet spots all over the place. The beds are dirty. I don’t know what’s going on or who’s responsible for ensuring that the dorms need to be clean, but we all need to be responsible for telling the minors to clean up after themselves.”
It’s actually worse than it sounds. Some of the staff — mostly federal contract employees — are sexually abusing the kids.
“We have already caught staff with minors inappropriately,” the trainer says. “Is that OK with you guys? I hope not. We have also caught minors with minors, which is, you know—we’ve got teenagers in this shelter. What’s happening with teenagers? Hormones, raging out of control. It’s important that we maintain safety and vigilance. Be vigilant. Stop what is happening. If you don’t watch these kids, and you’re not the one who is going to step in, who’s going to? Be that person to stand up for the minors because that’s what we’re here for.”
Children are also being ignored when they request medical care. “Some of the incidents and complaints we’re getting also is that we’ve got minors who are requesting medical due to not feeling well, and staff members are telling them there’s nothing wrong with you, go back to your bed,” the trainer says. “These are legitimate complaints and it is my duty to let you know what is going on, because if you know who these people are, you need to report them.”
Not surprisingly, Covid-19 has been a problem. Staff used to refer to the isolation tents as “Covid Campus” but once that appeared in the media, they changed it to “Healing Hill.”
“Many of the boys and girls have not been given underwear, particularly ones who’ve been in COVID isolation,” a federal employee says. “After they come out, they’re issued new clothes, but no underwear. And very often it’s only one set of clothes, so no clothes to change into, and no underwear. When we have asked about it—and I personally escorted some kids to tents to ask how come they can’t get underwear—the answer is, well, the contractor is supposed to provide that.”
Kudos to Reason for bringing this story to our attention but where’s the rest of the mainstream press who wept and wailed and gnashed their teeth about the conditions kids were being kept in during the Trump administration? None of these contract employees ran to the Washington Post or the New York Times with their chilling stories of neglect and abuse.
Those newspapers are obviously too busy warning America that right-wing terrorism is more of a danger than Islamic terrorism.