BROWNSVILLE, RGV – On Wednesday, reporters in separate groups of up to seven individuals, from local, national and international news outlets, including The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Televisa and Univision were escorted through the Border Patrol holding facility at Veterans Bridge in Brownsville, Texas.
No cameras or recording equipment allowed.
Eight holding pods, with heavy glass in front, each measure about 4,900 square feet and hold about 20 individuals. Women with infants, young boys, young girls, males and females are each held separately. The Brownsville facility is designed to hold 250 individuals. Today, 500 are detained. One out of four is an unaccompanied minor. According to officials, Brownsville is the hub for unaccompanied children.
Border Patrol is cooperating with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and The Health and Human Services Department. A portable enclosure with about 20 washing machines is stationed on site. FEMA Corps personnel assist with the care of the immigrants including showers, laundry and a brief medical screening.
Outside the facility, about 15 children in a shaded enclosure are learning English. A small grassy area serves as a makeshift soccer field.
Border Patrol encounters with unaccompanied children have doubled since this time last year.
After processing, detainees are released to relatives in the United States, pending a deportation hearing.
As my group walked past one of the holding pods, a group of about eight young boys, probably no older than 12 years of age, pressed their faces against the glass. One boy cried, “Mi Mama, quiero mi Mama!” I walked out crying.
Mario Muñoz is presenter of Closer to Home on Rio Grande Valley Public Radio 88 FM.