A first look inside holding facilities for immigrant children

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A first look inside holding facilities for immigrant children

By Craig Smith. CREATED Jun 18, 2014

NOGALES, Ariz (KGUN9-TV) - There were terrible claims of abuse when word first filtered out of hundreds of Central American children who entered the U-S without parents, were in Border Patrol holding facilities in Nogales Arizona and South Texas.

Now Border Patrol has finally allowed journalists to have a look inside.
What we saw is consistent with photos shot in secret days ago.
Children are in holding areas, but we did not see signs of neglect or abuse.

Even U.S. Senators were pressuring Border Patrol to show the facilities and offer visual proof to contradict claims the children were abused, but Border Patrol still waited more than half a month to allow tours, but with tight prohibitions about showing children's faces or asking them questions.

The children are living life on hold, in a holding facility build years ago for adult detainees, now adapted to care for children until they move to more long term government facilities.
They are part of a surge of immigrants from Central America, often trying to escape violence there.
Border Patrol says the children get health exams, have individual showers and clean clothes with a goal of achieving that every 24 hours
Border Patrol says children get three hot meals a day, plus snacks if desired and they do get a chance to exercise three days a week.
Border Patrol would not answer questions on camera but a rep from the Border Patrol Union did.
 Considering claims the children were in terrible conditions, Art Del Cuerto can't understand why officials took so long to let people see how the children do live.
He says the agents caring for the kids volunteered for that assignment but he worries their duty in the holding facility leaves a gap in border protection,
Reporters weren't allowed to talk to the children but as a Border Patrol Agent, Del Cuerto could.

"They already have family members waiting for them in New Jersey, New York, Chicago and I did ask them, I said, what are you hearing, what are your intentions and they themselves said, I understand I'm going to be here for awhile but in the end, it's all gonna be worth it because I will be rewarded and will be released."
A senior official from El Salvador came to check on children from her country. Speaking through an interpreter, Liduvina Maragin or El Salvador’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says she hopes to reduce the reasons Salvadorans are coming to the U.S.

"This government is committed to making all the living conditions of all the Salvadorans living in El Salvador better."

From the holding facilities, the children transfer to Federal Health and Human Services.  That agency has an office of refugee resettlement that has better long term facilities for the children while they wait to connect with their families.

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Craig Smith

Craig Smith

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Craig enjoys using innovative writing and visuals to make difficult stories easier to understand. As a newsroom manager at KGUN 9, Craig was part of the team that won three best newscast awards from Arizona Associated Press