A look inside undocumented children holding facility
Brownsville, TX (KVEO) — Inside the Fort Brown Border Patrol Station in Brownsville, is a maze of hallways that leads to a circular room with concrete floor to ceiling and the smell of a bad hand sanitizer. In the middle is an area of computers for processing, and around those are holding cells in a pie shape formation that average 20 feet by 20 feet.
They are filled with children sorted by age, and gender. Majority are single, under 17, and from Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador. Young boys and girls lay on the concrete covered by a thin Red Cross blanket. Some lucky ones have a mat to add some sort of comfort.
We were greeted with smiles, waves, and some tears through the windows, which was the same way that we greeted them.
Seven rooms fill this area with varying capacities from 19 to 41. The numbers on the door only represent about half of how many are actually crammed in. Overall capacity is 250, and border patrol agents report approximately 500 are currently there.
Most of the day is spent inside these concrete viewing rooms like ones you might see at a zoo or jail. When a new child arrives they are medically screened. If they pass, they proceed to the holding cells, if not, they get transported to a hospital for further treatment.
FEMA supplies two active deployment trailers outside. One for showers, and the other for laundry. This is where the children get to spend 30 minutes a day surrounded by a 10 foot tall fence topped with razor wire.
They get fellow human contact with border patrol agents or FEMA workers. This time is spent bathing, playing soccer, coloring, or little girls getting their hair brushed.
Then, it's back inside.
After the tour today, the questions that we were allowed to ask were very limited and we did not have very much time. However, when standing outside we saw four more vans pull up. All you could see through the tinted windows was waving hands at all the cameras, showing you that this is not something that is currently going to slow down.
Border Patrol tries to maintain a 72 hour processing window but says that they want it to move faster.