Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake are demanding that U.S. Customs and Border Protection let the media inside its processing center in Nogales, where unaccompanied minors are being processed.
Photos inside the facility had leaked, and employees have reportedly been banned from carrying electronic devices.
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The facilities have not been prepared for the massive number of children being transported there, and the photos pretty much reflect just that.
But McCain and Flake, in a public letter to the CBP commissioner, say media outlets have been banned from entering, to see what's really going on in these facilities:
Dear Commissioner Kerlikowske,
We are concerned by reports that media organizations have been denied access to the Nogales Processing Center to observe and document the conditions in these facilities for the large number of unaccompanied children being held there. In the face of this humanitarian crisis, barring the news media from gathering information that is certainly in the public's interest undermines principles fundamental to transparency and democracy. We understand the need to ensure the privacy and safety of those individuals at this facility, but feel certain a compromise that safeguards these interests can be reached. Therefore, we urge you to immediately reverse the CBP's policy prohibiting media access.
Their demand comes on the heels of several immigrant-rights groups alleging that children held in these facilities have been subject to various abuses, which one American Civil Liberties Union lawyer summed up as "horrific."
Representatives for these groups said yesterday that such abuses aren't new, but are coming to the forefront with the sudden surge of children showing up without parents to the nation's southern border. These particular cases all took place within the last year.
Many of the cases are described individually in the complaint filed with the Department of Homeland Security. The complaint summarizes:
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Over 80 percent of these children reported inadequate food and water by CBP officials. Approximately half of the children described the denial of medical care. More than half reported experiencing some form of verbal abuse, while approximately one in four reported physical abuse ranging from sexual assault to punching, kicking, and use of stress positions as punishment. One in three reported CBP officials confiscated and did not return money and/or belongings, and approximately 15 percent reported being forcibly separated from family members. Approximately 70 percent of these children were detained by CBP beyond the 72-hour statutory limit.
Between these allegations, plus questions over whether these facilities provide humane living conditions, a media blackout shouldn't be the answer.
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