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McALLEN, Texas — Inside an old warehouse in South Texas, hundreds of children wait away from their parents in a series of cages created by metal fencing. One cage had 20 children inside. Scattered about are bottles of water, bags of chips and large foil sheets intended to serve as blankets.

One teenager told an advocate who visited that she was helping care for a young child she didn't know because the child's aunt was somewhere else in the facility. She said she had to show others in her cell how to change the girl's diaper.

The U.S. Border Patrol on Sunday allowed reporters to briefly visit the facility where it holds families arrested at the southern U.S. border, responding to new criticism and protests over the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy and resulting separation of families.

More than 1,100 people were inside the large, dark facility that's divided into separate wings for unaccompanied children, adults on their own, and mothers and fathers with children. The cages in each wing open out into common areas to use portable restrooms. The overhead lighting in the warehouse stay on around the clock.

Reporters were not allowed by agents to interview any of the detainees or take photos.

Nearly 2,000 children have been taken from their parents since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the policy, which directs Homeland Security officials to refer all cases of illegal entry into the United States for prosecution. Church groups and human rights advocates have sharply criticized the policy, calling it inhumane.

Stories have spread of children being torn from their parents' arms, and parents not being able to find where their kids have gone. A group of congressional lawmakers visited the same facility Sunday and were set to visit a longer-term shelter holding around 1,500 children — many of whom were separated from their parents.

"Those kids inside who have been separated from their parents are already being traumatized," said Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, who was denied entry earlier this month to children's shelter. "It doesn't matter whether the floor is swept and the bedsheets tucked in tight."

In Texas' Rio Grande Valley, the busiest corridor for people trying to enter the U.S., Border Patrol officials argue that they have to crack down on migrants and separate adults from children as a deterrent to others.

"When you exempt a group of people from the law ... that creates a draw," said Manuel Padilla, the Border Patrol's chief agent here. "That creates the trends right here."

Agents running the holding facility — generally known as "Ursula" for the name of the street it's on — said everyone detained is given adequate food, access to showers and laundered clothes, and medical care. People are supposed to move through the facility quickly. Under U.S. law, children are required to be turned over within three days to shelters funded by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Padilla said agents in the Rio Grande Valley have allowed families with children under the age of 5 to stay together in most cases.

An advocate who spent several hours in the facility Friday said she was deeply troubled by what she found.

Michelle Brane, director of migrant rights at the Women's Refugee Commission, met with a 16-year-old girl who had been taking care of a young girl for three days. The teen and others in their cage thought the girl was 2 years old.

"She had to teach other kids in the cell to change her diaper," Brane said.

Brane said that after an attorney started to ask questions, agents found the girl's aunt and reunited the two. It turned out that the girl was actually 4 years old. Part of the problem was that she didn't speak Spanish, but K'iche, a language indigenous to Guatemala.

"She was so traumatized that she wasn't talking," Brane said. "She was just curled up in a little ball."

Brane said she also saw officials at the facility scold a group of 5-year-olds for playing around in their cage, telling them to settle down. There are no toys or books.

But one boy nearby wasn't playing with the rest. According to Brane, he was quiet, clutching a piece of paper that was a photocopy of his mother's ID card.

"The government is literally taking kids away from their parents and leaving them in inappropriate conditions," Brane said. "If a parent left a child in a cage with no supervision with other 5-year-olds, they'd be held accountable."

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  • DoubleBlind
    June 17, 2018 at 5:15 p.m.

    I’m not sure how there should be a special place in hell for an ally who calls out Trump for being a giant dlck but no similar circumstance for Trump - and his defenders - who separate children from their parents and then place them in CAGES. The latter deserve to be torn limb from limb by Cerberus.

  • DoubleBlind
    June 17, 2018 at 5:55 p.m.

    For morons on the order of moz & GM, Cerberus is the (some say mythological) 3-headed hound who guards the gates of hell to prevent those most deserving of burning in perpetuity from escaping. In anticipation of your approbrium, you should know your objections are the gravy on your carcasses in my imagination. Yum.

  • PopMom
    June 17, 2018 at 7:18 p.m.

    What the Trump administration is doing to small children is child abuse pure and simple. Melania just issued a statement criticizing it.

  • KnuckleBall
    June 17, 2018 at 7:42 p.m.

    Our Toddler President has a hard time taking his venting out on Adults so now he is trying it on KIDs.... When Clinton was President some people called him the Antichrist. Trump has taken over that spot.... Bill is way down the line... there are several in the current Administration that are at the top of the list...

  • mozarky2
    June 17, 2018 at 7:58 p.m.

    So you "progs" would place children in an adult holding facility?
    BRILLIANT! Just like the rest of your idiotic ideas.

  • condoleezza
    June 17, 2018 at 8:06 p.m.

    Jesus loves you, mozarky2.

  • 23cal
    June 17, 2018 at 9:01 p.m.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics; the American College of Physicians; and the American Psychiatric Association oppose the practice. They say it can cause permanent damage. Who, besides the United States, the land of the free and the home of the brave, tears children away from their parents in first world countries?

    Previously, people who entered the country illegally and had no criminal record were detained or referred for deportation, and mothers and children usually remained together.
    The nonspecific references to a Democratic law appear to involve one enacted in 2008. It passed unanimously in Congress and was signed by Republican President George W. Bush. It was focused on freeing and otherwise helping children who come to the border WITHOUT a parent or guardian. It does not call for family separation.
    Some of the ones who have been separated have appeared on our border asking for asylum, which is not a crime.....but, they get separated anyway.
    There is, of course, no such law. There is an administration policy that everyone who crosses the border illegally must be immediately charged criminally, even if they request asylum. Previous presidents have put asylum seekers into family detention centers, which keeps them together until they can get a hearing before a judge to consider their case, after which they are either allowed into the country or deported — but kept together as a family the entire time, regardless of the outcome.
    I see Trump has reached the "I don't want to hit the children, you make me hit the children when you don't do as I want" chapter in the handbook for abusive husbands.

    They use the "breaking the law" schtick as justification for political terrorism. You know, as if tearing families apart is the only possible answer for "breaking the law". For the ones using this excuse I have a few words: Emoluments Clause. Trump Foundation. Trump brand merchandise displaying the presidential seal violates the constitution.
    Apparently, their lack of humanity and decency leads them to apply 'consequences for breaking the law" only to vulnerable children and not to their political orange pets. The word for this is "hypocrisy". The logical fallacy involved is known as "Special Pleading".
    The lack of simple humanity some people have in pursuit of their political agenda is unconscionable.

  • JakeTidmore
    June 17, 2018 at 9:24 p.m.

    I think Jesus would rather deal with the Devil than put up with the hate that burns within mozoid's breast.
    The kids are in cages and moz thinks this is just grand and dandy stuff. What a creep!!

  • Packman
    June 17, 2018 at 9:40 p.m.

    Here's a novel thought. How about NOT subjecting your child to unspeakable hardships as you knowlingly break the law?
    Are we a nation of laws or a nation of morality as defined by any random individual? President Trump has no choice but to enforce the law. It's not Trump's fault past administrations created this problem he's now having to deal with, making the best out of a terrible situation.
    The good news is the "emotion" card libs are playing isn't working. Normal people understand these kids are being used as pawns by their parents and liberal democrats and support both the rule of law and President Trump.
    Hey DoubleBlind, Pop, 23cal, etc. -Like that special place reserved for those that support literally ripping apart and killng unborn children? Stick your selective outrage up your a$$, you hypocritical morons. Far, far up your a$$.

  • RBear
    June 17, 2018 at 9:43 p.m.

    23cal does a great job explaining the reality of the situation and the false information being spread by Trump. Of course, Trump freaks like moz don't take the time to research the issues and make stupid statements like was posted here. He almost verbatim copied/pasted it from alt right sources who likewise spread the false information. Many rational Republicans and MANY faith leaders, including evangelicals, are calling this abusive policy shift by the DOJ for the inhumanity it is. Yet folks like moz come back with senseless statements that are just as false.