EL PASO — Pediatricians who have been volunteering their time to treat migrant children are asking to once again be given access into immigration detention facilities.
Four doctors spoke during a news conference Monday at the Annunciation House, a migrant shelter in Downtown El Paso. The said they were allowed into Border Patrol facilities to treat migrants in 2014.
“It was a very collarborative and cooperative process” that has since ceased, Dr. Jose Manuel De La Rosa said.
Instead, the doctors have been treating families who have been released by ICE and Border Patrol at the same shelter and other hospitality centers. On Monday, they shared with reporters what migrants have told them about the health care provided while in detention. In many cases, migrants who need treatment don’t ask for help, one doctor said.
“They are scared,” Dr. Carlos Gutierrez said. “Some of the parents are scared to tell the individuals who work there that the chid has a fever, is throwing up, looks dehydrated.”
Gutierrez said children need care by trained pediatricians.
“A child can run and play even with 105 (degree) fever and all of a sudden it hits and within an hour or two they are deathly ill. And it takes a trained pediatrician to detect something subtle as those signs in an ill child,” he said.
In a statement, Border Patrol officials in El Paso said, “We have DHS personnel and contracted medical staff at several locations throughout our sector who perform initial screenings and provide medical treatment when required.” The statement also said if additional medical attention is needed, migrants will be transported to a local hospital.
Dr. Lisa Ayoub-Rodriguez said she treats migrant children who are both in and out of CBP custody in the hospital. She shared the story mother who said it was hard to keep her newborn warm because of the plastic blanket she had for the baby.
“This mom is a breastfeeding mom,” Ayoub-Rodriguez said. “The baby’s lifeline is breast milk. Mom’s milk supply had already dropped. She was dehydrated. She hadn’t been given adequate meals. I asked her in CBP custody if she had been given water. She said no. I asked her if she asked for water. She said no. She didn’t want to be a bother or a burden she said.”
The doctors stressed stories like these are why they need to be allowed into migrant detention facilities. The doctors said Border Patrol no longer communicates with them, even to see what medications a migrant may have been on.
“My biggest beef has been us not being allowed into the facility,” Gutierrez said.