The US Border Patrol agents stationed at the Nogales processing center in Arizona gave reporters unprecedented access to the facility this week as part of an attempt by the agency to address reports that children being held there are forced to live in cramped and unsanitary conditions.
The reporters found there to be nine separate holding pens within the facility, each holding about 100 children. These youngsters are from various Central American countries, the most common being Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. They are separated by gender and age and were found by visiting reporters to be clothed, well fed, and clean.
The children sleep on mats on the floor and according to Border Patrol agents even small changes are often made to accommodate the children’s likes and dislikes. For example, recently it was determined by the kitchen staff that the kids were not eating the flour tortillas that were being served. In response, the staff switched to corn tortillas, which they found the kids more apt to eat. Agents even take time to join some of the older children in playing pick-up games of basketball in the facility, all of which paints a picture contrary to what is commonly believed about what goes on in these holding facilities.
Still, while reporters largely admitted to being surprised about conditions being much better than they expected, many of them said that these children are still essentially being held “in cages” in a building that smelled like “feet and sweat and straw.”
Nevertheless, many did say that while there is plenty of room for improvement, the conditions in which the children were living in the facilities was indeed far more favorable than wandering through the Mexican desert triple-digit heat.
There seemed to be at least some semblance of a positive rapport between the children and the Border Patrol agents that was not merely an act being put on for the reporters that day. To them, it did indeed seem genuine.