Unaccompanied Minors keep entering the U.S. - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

Unaccompanied Minors keep entering the U.S.

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Port Hueneme, CA - Update from Hal Eisner:

For the last few days we’ve been telling you about the overwhelming number of children, tens of thousands of them, who have come illegally – and alone – to the US-Mexico  border.

The numbers are extraordinary – 47,000 kids and teens since October. And, there are many stories being told. Some involve alleged treatment by border patrol agents upon arrival in the United States.

Karina, from El Salvador, is 15 years old. She came here unaccompanied. She says her brother was struck in the arm and they have only had two meals a day. 12 year old William, also from El Salvador,  has a similar ststorybout meals, but adds he was put in a freezer.

Texas Representative Henry Cuellar of Laredo spoke with me on the phone. He says the pictures he put out Thursday were taken by workers at a makeshift shelter along the Texas-Mexico border. The photos show cramped and chaotic conditions. There is even one picture that shows people in what looks like area. Cuellar says the Texas border is the focus of the smugglers assault because with mass entry they have better luck. He says border patrol is catching about 1200 people a day fleeing across the border. He adds children who would flee are clearly desperate and more attention needs to be focused on the problem.

The number of detention centers has been expanding with the growing population of smuggled kids. The latest is at the Port Hueneme Naval Base in Ventura  County. Friday was a day for the Department of Health and Human Services to show it off to a handful of staffers and representatives from Congress and Senate offices including Rep. Judy Chu, Rep. Lois Capps, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Grace Napolitano, Rep. Julia Brownley and Sen. Barbara Boxer.

(FOX 11 / AP) The converted warehouse on a Southern California military base that once housed sailors preparing to deploy overseas is now plastered with posters of X-Men and Green Lantern and filled with migrant teens eating applesauce and chatting about World Cup soccer. The cavernous facility at Naval Base Ventura County known as "Building 267" is one of three shelters set up by federal government officials to house hundreds of Central American children caught entering the country illegally following a surge in border crossing. And while beds in the sleeping quarters are still crisply cornered, the blankets are now pink and turquoise, with teddy bears on top of some of the pillows.

During a tightly controlled tour Thursday in Port Hueneme, a government official said the number of teens housed at the 42,000 square foot facility could more than triple to 575 by early next week. The official could not be named as a condition of the visit, and no photos or video were allowed.

Federal authorities have also set up a shelter at a military base in Texas and are planning another for Oklahoma to cope with what they have described as an "urgent humanitarian situation." More than 47,000 children, mostly from Central America, have been apprehended at the Mexican border since the start of the budget year in October.

In California, bunk beds and extra dining tables await the newcomers. Dirt soccer fields were created for outdoor play, and many are excited to watch World Cup matches on television, a shelter supervisor said.

Reporters were not allowed to speak with the children, who range in age from 13 to 17.

During their stay, the teens were learning long division in math class and drawing in art. Lunch was pizza bread, Caesar salad and applesauce served on brown disposable plates and eaten under white tents outdoors.

Each child is assigned a bunk bed and locker. Girls and boys are housed separately in sparsely decorated quarters hung with pictures made by the children or of superheroes. In the classroom areas, posters feature the president and American icons such as Rosa Parks.

The facility has air conditioning but officials haven't needed to use it yet, and children bathe in individual showers.

After their arrest on the border, the children are transferred to HHS' custody and placed at a shelter until case workers find a relative or sponsor to care for them and ensure they attend immigration court hearings on government efforts to deport them.

Martha Arevalo, executive director of the Central American Resource Center in Los Angeles, said children fleeing dire situations and enduring a perilous journey to the United States should be housed in warm, personal settings where they feel safe — not a detention-style or military environment.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Thursday there is no free pass for children or anyone else caught trying to cross the border illegally.

"I am not encouraging in any way, shape or form illegal immigration," Johnson said.

From Hal Eisner:

Texas Congressman Henry Cuellar has released new pictures that, to some, are stunning. They show what looks like a "people warehouse" with cramped and chaotic conditions for thousands of kids; minors smuggled into the US unaccompanied. And, in border makeshift centers like this one, you even see what looks like people "caged and locked in."  We don't know how they were obtained or when they were taken. This comes after reports that media outlets are being barred from reporting on the conditions at these center.

To Arizona Senator John McCain "In the face of this humanitarian crisis, barring the news media from gathering information that is certainly in the public's interest underminds fundamental principals."

FOX 11 has been trying to gain access to the Port Hueneme makeshift holding facility all week. It is being used to accomodate the overflow of unaccompanied minors have made their way over the border."In our case only one reporter PER NETWORK was allowed in. But, no video or photos were  allowed. And, reporters were not allowed to interview the 180 children here."

Max Aub, a reporter for MundoFOX represented us. His impression of the new 42,000 square foot Ventura County center was positive. He was impressed by the recreation available for the kids. He says there were ping pong tables, movies, televisions and much to do. He said the kids seemed comfortable and, to his eyes, were very happy.

He says he was also taken by the smiles and happy faces inside considering that these kids travel 1000 's of miles to get away from the horrors in their own neighborhoods in Central America and Mexico.

Immigration attorney and critic Gabriella Navarro-Busch represents unaccompanied minors as young as 10 and 12. In one case a brother and sister brought to US by smugglers.  She says "they saw family members murdered. A female relative raped and murdered. They were beaten to cooperate with the cartel so the kids had to go."

Navarro-Busch says, according to her young clients, the centers they've been at have been good.They had no complaints.

As for the new detention center in Ventura County Government officials provided pictures that don't show cramped, chaotic or caged conditions. Instead we see bunk beds, eating and recreation areas. The hope is to keep the kids here less than a month and then connect them with family or guardians. 

Navarro-Busch is concerned that the rights of all of the unaccompanied minors ending up in the United States are protected and that their conditions in these detention centers are more like what has been created at Port Hueneme than what we see along the Texas-Mexico border. 

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