The humanitarian crisis at the border has been a prominent point of conversation as images and stories from the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol detention centers have been shared with news outlets.
Although many people are aware of the horrifying conditions migrant families at the border have been forced to endure under the Trump administration, new drawings by three children separated from their families at the border are shining a new light on their dark experience.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, three children kept at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, drew the now viral pictures. Two of the children were from Guatemala while the third child’s country of origin remains unknown, reported ABC News.
Many families released from CBP custody were transferred to the Respite Center before arriving at their final destination. In this facility, some families received their first shower since being detained and gained access to clean clothes and a hot meal.
"Their faces were expressionless," Dr. Sara Goza told ABC News about the families leaving the CBP custody. "Their eyes were bulging and bloodshot -- you could tell they were very tired."
A mental health clinician and social worker specializing in Latino child trauma in the Respite Center asked children to detail their experience in CBP custody through a series of drawings. The images the children re-created depicted a nightmare.
In one picture, stick figures of children were covered in foil blankets and lying on the ground in cages. Another image showed what looks like toilets behind cage-like bars, while the last drawing showed five children, frowning and detained in a cage while three security guards watched them.
The drawings were given to Goza when she visited the CBP facilities last Wednesday. During her visit, Goza smelled a strong scent of urine, sweat and soiled diapers.
"I saw a sea of silver," Goza said describing children wrapped in foil blankets. "Some were sleeping in the middle of the morning."
"As we were leaving, I saw two beautiful girls whose knuckles were white because they were holding one another's hands so hard because they were afraid of being separated," Goza told ABC News. "I asked if they were unaccompanied and found out they were. They were no older than 5 years old. It turns out they were sisters."
Goza also recalled witnessing a young boy comfort another child who was in distress. When Goza asked a CBP officer why the minor was distraught, the official said the young boy had just been separated from his father who had been taken to court.
Before leaving for court, the boy's father gave him a piece of paper with the phone number of his aunt, who lives in the U.S. However, when the boy was transferred to the facility, he lost the piece of paper.
"Here was a little boy who didn't know if he was going to ever see his father again or be able to reach out to his aunt -- the only contact he had," Goza told ABC News.
Goza is now advocating for children to be released from detention facilities, like the ones at the Texas border.
"Children do not belong in Customs and Border Protection facilities, or in any detention facilities," Goza told ABC News. "It is no place for a child."
She also said there needs to be pediatricians at each detention center.
"Children aren't adults. As pediatricians, we would be able to tell if a child is sick or healthy and provide them the attention they need," Goza said. "As a pediatrician, I know that all of this is detrimental to children's health, short and long-term, and the effects can be severe."
While Goza said she plans to visit more facilities in the near future, right now she wants people to know about the trauma being inflicted on the children currently held in the centers.
"Children who are detained show signs of physical and emotional stress. These can include developmental delay, poor psychological adjustment, anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and other behavioral problems,” she told ABC News.
"We need to do to better by these people. As Americans we are capable of doing better," she said.
(Photo: American Academy of Pediatrics)
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