Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

Doctors from Harvard and Johns Hopkins Universities called on Congress to investigate the deaths of six migrant children who died while in U.S. custody. The physicians say unsanitary conditions in detention centers across the country are leading to the spread of infectious diseases like the flu. (Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Rio Grande Valley Sector via AP Photo)

'Timely Action Is Critical': Doctors Call On Congress to Investigate Children's Deaths In Migrant Detention Centers

Three children who died between December and May exhibited sign of influenza, doctors say

Julia Conley

Physicians from two top universities called on Congress to promptly investigate the deaths of six migrant children in the Trump administration's custody, warning that the widely-reported poor conditions in detention centers could be putting thousands of children at risk for infectious diseases.

Three of the six children who died while in U.S. custody since last September died partially because they had contracted influenza, the doctors noted. Two died after spending twice the amount of time in a Border Patrol station than the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) typically allows.

It's "necessary to better understand the conditions at the border to avoid more deaths," tweeted Paul Spiegel, a public health professor at Johns Hopkins University.

The administration "may be overlooking the risks of outbreaks that are entirely preventable," Joshua Sharfstein, another Johns Hopkins professor, told the Washington Post.

About 2,000 migrant children are in U.S. custody on any given day, many after a grueling journey from Central America and elsewhere. The children are in Border Patrol stations, where many have been kept for far longer than the facilities are equipped to house people; detention centers run by ICE and the Health and Human Services Department (HHS), and facilities run by for-profit government contractors like CoreCivic.

The doctors urged lawmakers to probe how the widely-reported unsanitary conditions in the centers—detailed by children in a facility near El Paso in June—contributed to the deaths that have been recorded.

Overcrowding has forced dozens of people to stay together in a single room, often with insufficient blankets. Some have slept on restroom floors or outside and many have reported that they were unable to bathe while in custody. A Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokesperson told the Washington Post that children are not vaccinated against the flu when they are first detained, but they are given vaccines when they are transferred to HHS.

In June, CBS News reported that a dozen children in a facility in Clint, Texas, were exhibiting signs of the flu.

"With so many lives at risk, these issues are worthy of congressional investigation. Another influenza season is around the corner, and there are other types of infectious diseases that pose a threat to detained populations," wrote the doctors. "Timely action is critical."

The letter was sent a day after a woman named Yazmin Juárez filed a lawsuit against CoreCivic, the for-profit prison company which was awarded a contract by the Trump administration to house and transport migrant children. Juárez's one-year-old daughter, Mariee, died last year, weeks after being released from a center run by the company.

The child developed a respiratory illness and a fever of 104.2 degrees after being transferred with her mother to CoreCivic's detention center in Dilley, Texas. Juárez says the staff at the center didn't give Mariee proper medical treatment and then cleared her to travel when it wasn't safe.

"We don't believe that it's ever appropriate to jail small children," Stanton Jones, a lawyer for Juárez, told PBS Newshour. "At a minimum, if CoreCivic is making huge amounts of money to run a jail for children, there are legal duties that come with that."

The three children who exhibited signs of the flu died between December 2018 and May 2019. Before the six recent deaths over the past year, it had been a decade since a migrant child died in U.S. custody.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.

 

Right-Wing Justices Should Be Impeached for Lying Under Oath, Says Ocasio-Cortez

"We have a responsibility to protect our democracy," said the New York Democrat. "That includes holding those in power who violate the law accountable."

Kenny Stancil ·


'Infuriating': Biden Rebuked for Continued Opposition to Supreme Court Expansion

"What does Biden 'agree' with doing?" Mehdi Hasan asked. "What does the leader of this country want to do to stop the increasingly fascistic assault on our democratic institutions and basic rights?"

Kenny Stancil ·


'We Need Action': Biden, Democrats Urged to Protect Abortion Access in Post-Roe US

"The Supreme Court doesn't get the final say on abortion," Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Tina Smith wrote in a new op-ed.

Kenny Stancil ·


Motorist 'Tried to Murder' Abortion Rights Advocates at Iowa Protest, Witnesses Say

Although one witness said the driver went "out of his way" to hit pro-choice protestors in the street, Cedar Rapids police declined to make an arrest.

Kenny Stancil ·


'A Hate Crime': Oslo Pride Parade Canceled After Deadly Shooting at Gay Bar

A 42-year-old gunman has been charged with terrorism following what Norway's prime minister called a "terrible and deeply shocking attack on innocent people."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo