Civil Rights / Clergy Delegation Tour Analysis & Proposals Regarding Nogales Detention Center Housing Minor Immigrant Children

(Above)  Minor Immigrant Children/Mothes Sleeping in Mylar Blankets As They Await Thicker Bed Mattress Mats In Nogales Detention Center.  Photo Credit: Jon Justice Show 104.1 KQTH



Civil Rights / Clergy Delegation Tour Analysis & Proposals Regarding Nogales Detention Center Housing Minor Immigrant Children

The June 10, 2014 tour of the Nogales Detention Center (NDC) in Arizona housing over 1000 Central American undocumented minor children and mothers was disturbing for me. Though I see progress compared to a similar situation in Texas, I believe the State of Arizona handles this humanitarian crisis far better than Texas. As a Texas-born woman, I am sad to say I am ashamed of Texas federal Senators and Congressmen and women who do not provide legal immigration reform. Adequate space to house the undocumented immigrant children/mothers is part of their responsibility, too, particularly when Texas is a state with the longest stretch bordering Mexico of any State in our Union.  Currently the State of Arizona has the largest detention center in our Nation even though the Arizona-Mexico border is approximately 378 miles long (only a fraction of the Texas-Mexico border with approximately 1954 miles long).  Considering the Texas border length with Mexico, one would think they would have the largest detention facility in the country.

A Civil Rights and Clergy delegation was put together by Reverend Jarrett Maupin to review the conditions in Nogales. Reverend Maupin described the detention atmosphere as a sophisticated squalor. Though Maupin believes the Nogales BP is doing the best they can and progress is being made, progress and improvements are still needed as it relates to these children. 

The tour began in the briefing room where we asked several questions to the Chief of the Detention Center and several border patrol staff. We discovered that almost all of these minor children are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala (split almost 3-ways) with almost 0% Mexican undocumented minor children.

The ages range between 17 years all the way down to infants with mothers. The Border Patrol (BP) did tell us approximately 3 women were raped (that they know of) when they were on their way to our Nation.  They are given medical care and vaccinations immediately, but the BP needs a broader skill set to handle new problems they are not used to handling with regard to specific counseling of those who have been traumatized. FEMA has done an excellent job with providing immediate contacts, contracts and monies in order to meet evolving needs, however, the BP needs to work faster in ensuring immigrants have access to showers and clean clothing. I recommended wet wipes be provided to all immigrants – especially for menstruating women and for sponge bath purposes until showers can be utilized. The Chief of BP said wet towelettes for sponge baths were a good idea until the showers can be used after fencing construction is accomplished. 

Reverend Maupin honed in on spiritual and emotional needs and suggested chaplains / spiritual advisors be provided right away for these immigrants. The Chief of BP told us they would act swiftly on the idea. The BP Chief underscored that they are used to handling adults – not minor children, and they are adjusting swiftly with the help of FEMA. The BP does not need funding because their needs are being met with FEMA funding and the Department of Homeland Security despite the smoke and mirrors Arizona Governor Jan Brewer is creating and her politicizing this humanitarian crisis. Texas operations failed to handle the crisis which is why Arizona detention centers are helping.  

It is plausible to believe Arizona has the largest detention center in our Nation in light of Arizona Governor Brewer signing a restrictionist bill via SB 1070 and the anti-immigrant culture she created for our state. However, it appears Brewer's restrictionism and isolationism backfired on her when the Rio Grande Valley Detention Center was aware of more square footage space the Nogales Detention Center had to offer. Texas was inadequate and needed Arizona's square footage made available to them. 

Current Conditions: 

  • The Nogales Detention Center is a former warehouse facility with approximately 120,000 square feet available.

  • BP Officer Gustavo Soto stated a recreational area is being built so that these kids can have outdoor recreation.

  • Showers and toilet trailers with appropriate plumbing will be utilized as soon as a fence can be constructed and fence should be finished this week.

  • The Rio Grande Valley Detention Center in Texas called the Nogales Detention Center in Arizona seeking help to house undocumented minor children and mothers. Currently there are 150 BP agents from across the Nation helping in this humanitarian crisis to care for over 1000 minor children / family units.

  • Border patrol agents have limited toys and are playing soccer and Frisbee with minor children to make things a little better. BP leaders have children of their own and the Chief of BP is sympathetic to needs of these kids considering the broken immigration system. We know the Democratic-controlled Senate passed immigration reform approximately a year ago, while the House of Representatives led by Republicans obstruct the vote in order for legal immigration reform to take place that will help family unification attempts being made by children.

  • Children are receiving vaccinations which creates a 3 day observation period before an Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) appointment transfer is created to a more permanent area. According the the BP Chief, Nogales is merely a temporary holding station before ORR station is assigned to immigrants. We are told ORR assignments being made to the likes of military bases such as Ft. Sill, Lackland Air Force base and etc.

  • All financial resources are being met currently by FEMA and federal government, but current conditions contingent upon construction of fences and other areas to provide a more healthy environment appropriate for children and mothers.

  • The assignments and transfers will begin as early as Friday, June 13, 2014.

  • Border Patrol interacting with children and communicating with them using the Spanish language.

  • Children and mothers are currently sleeping on military bed mats with Mylar blankets and we were told bed mats are being shipped this week that will provide more comfortable sleeping arrangements.

  • There is a large medical staff on site, however, specific counseling to deal with traumatized children and mothers are needed to address more specific mental and emotional concerns.

  • Family units and children are not being sent to their native countries – only single males are sent back.

  • Immediate mental care is given after ORR transfer, but these kids need specific emotional care now to help with the trauma they experienced. We made a request to a federal Obama appointee in order to expedite this need after our tour was conducted, and we are told needs will be expedited forthwith.

  • When women are identified as rape victims during their way to the U.S., the BP puts them in urgent specific care. The INA considers those under 5 years of age as foundlings until they can be identified as to the nature of where they were born. Minor children and/or mothers do not receive legal representation in temporary Nogales detention center – only until ORR assignment transfer is conducted.

  • We believe the need for immediate representation should be made. We are working with Carlos Galindo and an Arizona AILA representative with regard to urgent legal representation, possible legal guardianship and etc.

  • Phone bank of 8 phones are utilized and help in morale department, but more are needed.

  • Chief Leonardo confessed to witnessing these kids crying, and said this affects him because he is a father and is compassionate to this crisis, however, rules prevent him from giving these kids a hug / emotional support.

  • Counselors and/or Ministers of God are imperative. We could not take photos of kids, nor could we talk to them, but a few of us did anyway. Reverend John Torres gave a message of hope to these Central American kids in Spanish and said: “Help is on the way and we are crying with you.”

  • Males and females are separated in large fenced in areas with barbed wire holding them inside the separate sleeping areas. (See Diagram)

  • At eating time, kids and mothers are lined up in long cages for a standing-only lines. The cafeteria consists of a make-shift area with wooden tables and fold up chairs that will feed 200 at a time. (See Diagram) Some of the wooden fold-up tables were shoddy and need to be replaced with table that are not porous and more sanitary-friendly ones that can be wiped more easily fostering a better food bacteria environment. Eating times take approximately 1 ½ hours for breakfast, lunch and dinner at each eating time.

  • Plenty of food is given, however, the BP Chief states they switched from flour burritos to corn tortilla burritos because corn is native to Central Americans and flour was hurting these kids' stomachs.

  • We did not see television available to these kids to help with morale and we are told by BP they are using their own televisions from offices to assign a space for entertainment.

  • So far BP agents have been contributing their own games in order to help with the morale of these kids.


Blame For Humanitarian Crisis: 

I have stated factual detention current conditions of the Nogales Detention Center that is currently housing the mostly Central American undocumented immigrant children and mothers to the best of my ability. I believe the Nogales Border patrol is doing the best they can but there is room for progress from a humane standpoint for infants, children and mothers. Seeing the kids move to the corner of their chain linked fence holding area in order for them to see what we were doing there gave me a sense of what we see at a dog pound that holds lost dogs in similar chain linked areas. It was disheartening for me as a mother of two to see minor children and mothers in those conditions. 

Additionally, as a mother I find it hard to believe I would encourage my children to risk their lives in the scorching heat that has already claimed thousands of immigrant lives at our southern border in the peak of summer. Primary blame is on the parents / relatives of these children's who are essentially encouraging a summer death wish. This journey makes it too easy for their children to be abused physically or sexually. This is a traumatic experience in the dangerous summer heat. 

Secondly, I blame the obstructionist Tea Party Republicans, Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor who have preventing a legal immigration vote from taking place at the House of Representatives level. The Democratic-controlled Senate passed legal immigration reform almost one year ago, and obstructionism will not fix the clearly broken immigration system we all know exists today. The Republican Party used to pride itself on the protection of the family unit, however, their blocking the vote on legal immigration reform to take place clearly proves otherwise. The broken system is forcing and separating family units. President Obama has repeatedly stated to the American people he will sign a legal immigration reform bill, but it has to be approved by the House of Representatives first. 

The Republican Party must understand that putting the legal immigration reform for vote will help in our National Security department. This will create an incentive and a means to identify and document those who are living in the shadows of our society. We want to keep in contributing members of society while kicking out the dangerous real criminal element. A healthy legal immigration system will also strengthen our foreign relationships and National Security with our soil neighbors in the western hemisphere that could prevent dictators from sowing discord

Republicans and Speaker Boehner must realize that preferential treatment and government handouts are given to Cuban immigrants and all immigrants are not treated fairly as it stands today. The wet-foot-dry-foot needs to be re-evaluated. Central American is considered more corrupt than Cuba and all immigrants should be treated the equally. 

The GOP-led House of Representatives must not entertain “taxation without representation” ideas, and should realize the economic benefits to creating new tax payers that will ensure the continuance of Social Security benefits and the likes of caring for our aging Baby Boomers. Taking care of our elderly is taking approximately 65% of our federal tax revenues. Foresight and a proactive approach ought to be considered in order to replace our labor pool as millions and millions of our Baby Boomers retire. 

Finally, in order to avoid this growing humanitarian crisis, we encourage President Barack Obama to meet with Central American government leaders. Central American government leaders must educate and inform their mothers and relatives of the long and dangerous journey in the scorching heat not fit for infants and minor children.    


(Above)  Nogales Arizona Detention Center atmosphere far more better than Texas Detention Center and is more spacious, however, improvements still need to be made and addressed. Arizona Reverend Jarrett Maupin led the Civil Rights and Clergy Delegation. 

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commented 2014-06-11 09:21:12 -0700 · Flag
Dee Dee Blase’s article is an in your face assessment of “Central American” panic. All, that work within the immigrant community, all that are enjoying the good life in our Country, a good life directly connected to the sacrifices and struggles of a 1st and 2nd generation born Americans, all that have can still feel empathy and pain when confronted by a situation of having ‘Mid-Eastern style" refugee camps on our Country’s borders, surely must become knowledgeable of the humanitarian crisis that has now become desperate acts endangering the lives of children..
An Independent American Voter Group merging Tip O'Neill Democrats and Ronald Reagan Republicans.