What Deportation Centers Are Like for Kids

Some 1,000 persons a day are apprehended by the US Border Patrol.

Dr Stein: The AAP thinks that children should absolutely not be held in detention. These children are not criminals, and we think that they can and should be embedded in the community as soon as they arrive because they are children.

I can briefly describe how they are held, which would tell you how inappropriate detention is. I visited a center [in Texas] called Ursula. [The nickname given to the center is “The Kennel” ]

The walls are 25 to 40 feet tall. It is a concrete building akin to a megastore like Costco or Walmart, with a dividing wall created by very thick prison-grade chicken wire.

Children are separated by age and by gender. There is an image I would like to erase from my mind: a child with his name and telephone number written in tar paint on his white T-shirt.

Children get stripped from their clothes and their possessions—their teddy bear, their security blanket. These are put in a plastic bag. Then they are given the uniforms of the center and a Mylar blanket. There were 1000 children in there. If you put 1000 children anywhere else, they are going to be running and laughing and chasing each other. The most compelling vision and experience of that moment was that these children were quiet. There was absolute silence. They were not being ordered to be quiet. They were laying down but not sleeping.

[Children have a mat to sleep on and a Mylar blanket. For safety, the lights are never turned off. In the processing center, the children have no way to know the time of day. They are separated from family members.]

I should say that the guards are not mean to them at all. Many of the guards are immigrants themselves, but they are police officers (or whatever you would call that type of activity) with a job to do. These children are put in detention and often they do not know what is going to happen next.

What Deportation Centers Are Like for Kids: AAP Takes a Look, by Hansa Bhargava, MD; Fernando Stein, MD, in Medscape. May 08, 2017