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Children are dying in border holding facilities. A top immigration official is pleading for help

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Guatemalan boys, one 10 and one 12, who cross the Suchiate River daily to work assisting Mexican raft operators, climb a mango tree looking for fruit ripe enough to eat, on the river bank in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Monday, June 17, 2019. Along the Suchiate, merchants and politicians expressed concern that the immigration crackdown could impact the commerce on which communities on both sides of the border depend. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) Rebecca Blackwell, APGuatemalan boys, who cross the Suchiate River daily to work assisting Mexican raft operators, attempt to knock mangos from a tree using a raft pole, as another boy looks on, on the river bank in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Monday, June 17, 2019. Along the Suchiate, merchants and politicians expressed concern that the immigration crackdown could impact the commerce on which communities on both sides of the border depend. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) Rebecca Blackwell, AP

  • Raftsmen carry a load of Corona beer across the Suchiate River on an inner tube and plank raft, near Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Monday, June 17, 2019, on the border with Guatemala. Along the Suchiate, merchants and politicians expressed concern that an immigration crackdown could impact the free flow of cross-border commerce on which communities on both sides depend. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)1 of 16
  • Young men play a card game called conquian as they pass the time along the river front facing Guatemala across the Suchiate River, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Monday, June 17, 2019. Along the Suchiate, merchants and politicians expressed concern that the immigration crackdown could impact the free flow of cross-border commerce on which communities on both sides depend. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)2 of 16
  • A group of Cuban migrants walks into town after arriving by the Coyote Pass raft route from Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Monday, June 17, 2019. Mexico is increasing immigration enforcement near the southern border amid heightened pressure from the U.S. to reduce the surge of mostly Central American migrants through its territory. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)3 of 16
  • People arriving from Guatemala disembark from a raft at Coyote Pass in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Monday, June 17, 2019. Mexico is increasing immigration enforcement near the southern border amid heightened pressure from the U.S. to reduce the surge of mostly Central American migrants through its territory. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)4 of 16
  • Murals reading in Spanish: Let nothing on earth hold us back, and We all win with the inclusion and protection of migrants, decorate buildings facing the Suchiate river front, where many migrants arrive by raft from Guatemala, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Monday, June 17, 2019. Mexico is increasing immigration enforcement near the southern border amid heightened pressure from the U.S. to reduce the surge of mostly Central American migrants through its territory. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)5 of 16
  • People and goods flow freely by raft across the Suchiate River between Tecun Uman, Guatemala, right, and Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Monday, June 17, 2019. Mexico is increasing immigration enforcement near the southern border amid heightened pressure from the U.S. to reduce the surge of mostly Central American migrants through its territory. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)6 of 16
  • Guatemalan boys, one 10 and one 12, who cross the Suchiate River daily to work assisting Mexican raft operators, climb a mango tree looking for fruit ripe enough to eat, on the river bank in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Monday, June 17, 2019. Along the Suchiate, merchants and politicians expressed concern that the immigration crackdown could impact the commerce on which communities on both sides of the border depend. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)7 of 16
  • A raftsman navigates the Suchiate River between Tecun Uman, Guatemala, top, and Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Monday, June 17, 2019. Mexico is increasing immigration enforcement near the southern border amid heightened pressure from the U.S. to reduce the surge of mostly Central American migrants through its territory. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)8 of 16
  • People mill on the riverbank as raftsmen ferry people and goods across the Suchiate River between Tecun Uman, Guatemala, top, and Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Monday, June 17, 2019. Along the Suchiate, merchants and politicians expressed concern that the immigration crackdown could impact the free flow of cross-border commerce on which communities on both sides depend. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)9 of 16
  • A raftsman brings his passengers in to the Coyote Pass landing spot, as they arrive from Tecun Uman, Guatemala, top, to Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Monday, June 17, 2019. Mexico is increasing immigration enforcement near the southern border amid heightened pressure from the U.S. to reduce the surge of mostly Central American migrants through its territory. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)10 of 16
  • A young man tosses a street dog who lives amidst the businesses and raftsmen along the river front into the Suchiate River for a bath, as another dog looks on, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Monday, June 17, 2019. Mexico is increasing immigration enforcement near the southern border amid heightened pressure from the U.S. to reduce the surge of mostly Central American migrants through its territory. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)11 of 16
  • People make their way over the embankment and into town after arriving by raft from Guatemala to Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Monday, June 17, 2019. Guatemalans who make their living crossing the unmonitored river border daily to buy goods or work in Mexican fields fear that increased immigration enforcement may affect them as well as Central Americans passing through on route to the US.(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)12 of 16
  • Guatemalan boys, who cross the Suchiate River daily to work assisting Mexican raft operators, attempt to knock mangos from a tree using a raft pole, as another boy looks on, on the river bank in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Monday, June 17, 2019. Along the Suchiate, merchants and politicians expressed concern that the immigration crackdown could impact the commerce on which communities on both sides of the border depend. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)13 of 16
  • Raftsmen set off across the Suchiate River with a load of Mexican corn for a Guatemalan buyer, in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Monday, June 17, 2019. Along the Suchiate, merchants and politicians expressed concern that the immigration crackdown could impact the free flow of cross-border commerce on which communities on both sides depend. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)14 of 16
  • A 10-year-old Guatemalan boy who crosses the Suchiate River daily to work assisting Mexican raft operators plays checkers with a friend, using bottle caps on a board painted on a concrete slab, on the river bank in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Monday, June 17, 2019. Along the Suchiate, merchants and politicians expressed concern that the immigration crackdown could impact the commerce on which communities on both sides of the border depend. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)15 of 16
  • A raft operator wearing shorts in the colors of the American flag maneuvers his inner tube and plank raft on the Suchiate River in Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Monday, June 17, 2019, on the border with Guatemala. Along the Suchiate, merchants and politicians expressed concern that the immigration crackdown could impact the commerce on which communities on both sides of the border depend. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)16 of 16

Some Central American migrants heading back south

U.S. Border Patrol stations are no place for children. They are bare-bones holding facilities meant for swift processing. But because the entire system is overwhelmed, Border Patrol is routinely holding children for about five days or longer — well beyond the 72-hour mandated window — because the government agency that takes care of minors who cross the border is also overwhelmed. And children must be deemed “fit to travel” before they are transferred.

When Carlos got sick, Border Patrol had about 2,500 kids in its custody, Sanders said. Overall, Border Patrol is holding about 15,000 people. Officials consider 4,000 to be at capacity.

“The death of a child is always a terrible thing, but here is a situation where, because there is not enough funding … they can’t move the people out of our custody,” Sanders said.

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The Trump administration is struggling to manage a growing number of children and families crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. More than 100,000 people are crossing per month. Immigration facilities are overwhelmed, as are the nonprofits that often take in migrants after they are released from government custody. The numbers have risen dramatically during President Donald Trump’s time in office despite his hard-line immigration policies and border tough-talk.

In addition to Carlos, four other children have died since late last year after being detained by the Border Patrol. Just last week, a 17-year-old girl who had an emergency cesarean section in Mexico was discovered at a border facility in Texas with her premature baby.

Congress is nowhere near agreement on any major immigration law changes. As a stopgap, the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday approved a modified version of the emergency funding request by a 30-1 vote. It’s on its way to a floor vote next week.

The bipartisan vote likely means that the Senate will take the lead in writing the legislation, which needs to pass into law before the House and Senate leave for vacation next week. A spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee chairwoman, Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said the panel has drafted its version of the measure and expects a bipartisan vote early next week.

The legislation contains $2.9 billion to care for unaccompanied migrant children — more than 50,000 have been referred to government care since October — and $1.3 billion to care for adults. There’s also money to hire new judges to decide asylum claims.

To win Democratic support, the panel’s chairman, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., agreed to drop Trump’s request for Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention beds, where adults and a small number of families are held, and agreed to a Democratic provision to block any of the money in the legislation from being diverted to building a border wall.

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In the meantime, to help manage the crush, Customs and Border Protection opened a second air-conditioned tent to hold up to 500 people in Donna, Texas, after the first facility of 500 near the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge quickly filled up. There is a large tent in El Paso. And construction is underway for a similar facility in Yuma, Arizona.

The spaces offer bathrooms, recreation areas and sleeping quarters that are divided by gender and by families and children traveling alone. Detainees will sleep on mats.

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Several busloads of mostly Central American migrants traveling in a caravan arrived to Tijuana, Mexico.
USA TODAY

Across the border, Department of Homeland Security volunteers heat up meals for migrants. Government agencies are spending considerably more on perishables, travel and medical checks. A flu epidemic at the facility where Carlos died prompted a temporary shutdown while it was sanitized and cleaned. The supplemental funding will in part pay for those efforts, Sanders said.

Sanders also envisions small infirmaries with beds where people can recuperate if they’re sick, and mobile medical units that can get care faster to rural areas.

Getting the emergency funding isn’t a permanent fix, but it’s is a necessary start, he said.

“We need to be thinking not only about the care for the people in our custody,” Sanders said. “I have a 60,000-person workforce that is strained, are getting sick. The people of CBP need assistance for them.”

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