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Border detentions: Institutionalized abuse

June 27, 2018


Ursula detention center in McAllen, Texas is the largest Customs and Border Protection detention center for undocumented migrants in the United States. The facility is a converted warehouse, able to house 1,000 children and adults. As of June 17th, 1,129 people were being held at Ursula in large, chain-link cages. 

A pre-med student volunteering with immigrants released from Ursula writes:

We are in dire need of persons with any degree of medical training to administer immediate aid. I have been trying to triage patient needs as best I can. My biggest concerns are immediate address of dehydration (which can induce fever, headache, stomach pain, and impede healing), wounds which have not been assessed and treated for weeks during travel, and communicable disease (so far, lots of viral infections such as flu, chicken pox, and even measles).

We have many pregnant women arriving here. Some as far along as 8 months. I’m trying to quarantine the measles.

I treated a four-year-old holding her 6-month-old baby sister, both for fever and cough. There was no one with them.

On a personal note, the devastation here is more than I could have ever understood without physically being here. I am a Texas native and not even the rest of the city is aware of what is happening in these detention centers and with border patrol, let alone the country.

                                            Central processing station, Ursula detention center, McAllen, TX

Hesperian has always stood for health, rights, and dignity of all people and especially people who are marginalized, including migrants and refugees. What we hear from the border and see on the news makes us sick.

The unauthorized and illegal taking of thousands of children on the border is both infuriating and heart-wrenching, and we join the efforts of myriad organizations to demand the reunification of immigrant families, the establishment of legal and dignified processes for people seeking asylum and the recognition of the basic human rights — including the right to health — of those confronting the most artificial of all divisions: political borders.

Detained children lying on matresses within a caged area at Ursula detention center, McAllen, TX.

Do you speak languages other than English?

Various organizations, like the Texas Civil Rights Project, are seeking volunteers that can help with translation and interpretation in Spanish, but also in Mam, K’iche’ and Q’echi’. And our health information is available freely on our HealthWiki in Spanish and 17 other languages. Please use it.

Do you know the law?
The United States Bar Association has a list of organizations looking for volunteers with legal experience.

Do you know about health?
The National Nurses United union is looking for volunteers to offer services to detained children. Hesperian’s health information about first aid, caring for children with disabilities, and the emotional and social development of children could be useful resources for your health work.

The Humanitarian Respite Center of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley provides services to immigrants, including those released from detention. As the quote at the beginning of this note mentions, they need medical volunteers and supplies.

Do you want to make a gift?
One of the organizations directly serving families that have been separated is RAICES. You can also make one donation through Act Blue, and they will divide it equally among the 14 most involved organizations.

Do you live in the United States?
Mobilize! Call your representatives in the Senate. Tell your relatives and acquaintances what’s happening and how to help. Share this information on your social networks.
And above all, vote for candidates that are in favor of the health and rights of all children.