CLINT, Texas – At the squat, sand-colored concrete border station in Texas that has become the center of debate over President Donald Trump's immigration policies, a chaotic shuffle of migrant children continued Tuesday as more than 100 were moved back into a facility that days earlier had been emptied in the midst of criticism that young detainees there were hungry, crying and unwashed.
The station in Clint, Texas, sits in the middle of a farm town of fewer than 1,000 residents, framed by high fencing and a tall communications tower. In recent weeks, it has become a temporary home to hundreds of migrant children because the government has run out of space to place the large numbers of migrants continuing to flow into the country from Central America.
Lawyers who visited the facility said they found it stretched beyond its capacity, with hundreds of minor detainees having gone for weeks without access to showers, clean clothing or sufficient food.
But in a call Tuesday with reporters, a Customs and Border Protection official said that the agency was able to send about 100 children back to the station because overcrowding there had been alleviated. The official disputed the lawyers' accounts of conditions at the facility, insisting that migrant detainees housed by the agency were given access to periodic showers and were offered unlimited snacks throughout the day.
The continuing movement of children and confusion over the situation at Clint demonstrated the increasingly disorganized situation along the southwestern border and the government's struggle to maintain minimal humanitarian standards amid an unprecedented influx of migrant families that only recently has begun to show any signs of slowing.
Acting director is out
The agency's acting commissioner, John Sanders, will step down in early July as the government's primary border enforcement executive, a federal official said Tuesday, a development that comes as the agency faces continuing public fury over the treatment of detained migrant children.
Sanders announced his resignation in an e-mail to colleagues shortly after it was reported by journalists. He has led the agency since Trump tapped the former Customs and Border Protection commissioner, Kevin McAleenan, to replace Kirstjen Nielsen as Homeland Security secretary. Sanders specialized in developing technology for national security initiatives and previously served as the chief technology officer for the Transportation Security Administration.
The official, who confirmed his resignation and who requested anonymity, said it was not clear whether the impending resignation was connected to recent criticism over the agency's management of a large influx of migrant families along the border.
That assertion from Customs and Border Protection that children were being well cared for ran contrary to what the lawyers, from some of the nation's top law schools, said they were told by children. During a court-ordered visit to the facility earlier this month, some children said they had not been allowed to shower in nearly a month and were so hungry that it had been hard for them to sleep through the night.
"I personally don't believe these allegations," the Customs and Border Protection official, who spoke on the condition he not be identified, told reporters.
The lawyers' accounts prompted a significant public backlash, after which all but 30 of the roughly 300 children who were being housed in Clint were transferred elsewhere. Some 249 were placed in a shelter network for children run by the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement, while others were moved to a tent facility in El Paso run by Customs and Border Protection.
But on Tuesday, the CBP official said that those moves had alleviated overcrowding in Clint, and allowed for the return of more than 100 children there. The spokesman said that no additional resources had been provided to the children who were sent back.
After the lawyers' accounts about Clint were made public, volunteers from around the country began to mobilize, hoping to deliver supplies such as diapers, soap and food to the facility. But those who arrived there were not allowed in and their donations were not accepted, according to local media reports.
On the call with reporters Tuesday, the Customs and Border Protection official said that the agency was reviewing its policy for accepting outside donations, but the official also disputed the idea that supplies were running low.
"We are looking at the possibility of using some of those donations going forward but those items, it's important to note, are available now," the official said.
Federal officials had previously told the office of Rep. Terry Canales, D-Texas, who requested a list of needed supplies, that the agency would not be able to accept outside donations, according to Curtis Smith, Canales' chief of staff.