More than 30 migrant children aged 5 to 12 were left overnight to wait in vans before being reunited with their parents, a report by NBC News says.
The outlet informs that the minors arrived at the Port Isabel Detention Center on at 2:30 p.m. on July 15 of last year and were left waiting in the scorching heat to be processed for reunification with their families. Andrew Carter, the regional director of BCFS Health and Human Services, which was transporting the children, said later that day that 37 migrant children were forced to wait for eight hours in the van transporting them.
“The children were initially taken into the facility, but were then returned to the van as the facility was still working on paperwork,” he said in emails to the company’s CEO Kevin Dinnin. “The children were brought back in later in the evening, but returned to the vans because it was too cold in the facility and they were still not ready to be processed in.”
A BCFS official and a former HHS official said the emails later led to a series of communications between Health and Human Services and ICE officials. The official added that the event made clear that the DHS was not adequately prepared to handle the “separations and did not take steps necessary to ensure a speedy reunification” with the children’s parents.
“Had DHS acted differently, the process would have been much smoother and the impact on the kids would have been much less,” the official also said.
NBC News further reported that ICE officers had left for the day even though they had been informed of the migrant children’s arrival later in the day and no one was present to meet the vans, forcing BCFS to call in additional vans for the children to sleep in.
The last child to be reunited with their parent waited for 39 hours, while the majority of the children spent up to 23 hours in the vans, the report adds. A spokesperson for ICE called the incident “unusual” maintaining that “since then, no child has spent more than a few hours waiting to be reunited with their parents.”