According to media reports by lawyers describing "appalling" and potentially dangerous conditions, nearly 300 immigrant children were removed from unhygienic conditions at a Texas Border Patrol.
Lawyers Recently Visiting NBC News Two Texas facilities housing immigrant children reported that children and adolescents were unable to shower for days or even weeks, inadequate food, flu outbreaks, and prolonged detention.
The children removed were arrested at a border station in Texas Clint, Texas. Some wore dirty clothes that were covered in phlegm or even urine, said Elora Mukherjee, director of Immigrants' Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School. Teenage mothers wore clothes with mother's milk stains. None of the children had access to soap or toothpaste, she said.
"Almost every child I have spoken to has not showered or bathed since crossing the border ̵
The children were also sent to a tent camp in El Paso. Texas, where they will remain under the care of Border Patrol until they can be placed with the Ministry of Health and Human Services, said the DHS official. The Associated Press first reported on the conditions in the facility.
Mukherjee was part of the lawyer team that visited the facility last week. She said that although the border station can hold a little more than 100 people when they arrived on Monday morning, there were about 350 children. The group spoke to more than 60 people.
"I have never experienced such appalling circumstances as last week," she said. "The children are hungry, dirty and ill and are being detained for a very long time."
"Children who are themselves young are instructed by guards to take care of even younger children," added Mukherjee Already 7 and 8 years old had to take care of 2-year-olds.
Almost all children were separated from the adults they crossed the border with – siblings, aunts, or grandparents, or even their parents.  "They do not know where their loved ones are, with whom they crossed the border," she said.
Many already had family members in the United States waiting to receive them, she said.
Federal The law requires unaccompanied or separated migrant children to be held in HHS within 72 hours. However, some children in the Clint facility had been on border patrol for weeks.
Migrant children increasingly sit on concrete benches or even in detention Outsiders According to three government officials and documents reviewed by NBC News, they were at border patrol stations where HHS had almost exceeded their capacity.
In the meantime, another attorney team said they had also encountered children under similar circumstances during their visit to the Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas, earlier this month.
"It's the same conditions," immigration lawyer Hope Frye said.
Frye said she met a 17-year-old Guatemalan mother with a premature baby in the overcrowded facility. The mother was confined in a wheelchair after a caesarean section in Mexico. When Frye met her she was "caked with dirt" and neither she nor her baby had taken a shower since arriving, she said.
Frye said she had taken a handkerchief to clean the baby and wiped "black muck off her neck".
Frye described the baby as weak and said the mother told her that she had stopped growing while she was in the facility.
Frye said she feels she has no choice but to sign up to tell the story of the young mother. The teenager and her baby have since been released from custody.
"She told me she thought if she did not come out, her baby would die," she said. "I have no question that it was the extreme love of this 17-year-old mother who kept this baby alive."
Frye described the filthy conditions and added, "There is no soap and no water or water is inadequate or inaccessible unless left out of the cages.
Frye also said about the children they had talked to, "Almost every child had some illness," or had previously been ill. She said the team sent a doctor back to the facility after the visit, and six children were eventually hospitalized.
A decade-old agreement known as the Flores Settlement establishes the guidelines for the treatment of immigrant children and their treatment detention and release, including the fact that the facilities are "safe and hygienic".
Last week, a Justice Department attorney appeared in court to frame a 2017 ruling that violated the terms of the settlement. In a viral clip, attorney Sarah Fabian argued that certain amenities such as soap, toothbrushes and even half a night's sleep should not be required under the terms of the original settlement. The argument was criticized by the jury of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals.
"For me it's more of a general understanding: if you do not have a toothbrush, if you do not have soap, if you do not have a blanket, it's not safe and hygienic," said Judge A. Wallace Tashima. "Would not all agree, would you agree?"
Vice President Mike Pence said on Sunday he believes migrant children should have access to soap, toothbrushes and other basic amenities.
Julia Ainsley contributed.