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No, Children Separated From Their Parents Have Not Been "So Well Taken Care Of"

During the final presidential debate, President Donald Trump claimed that migrant children who've been separated from their parents and are in U.S. custody have been "well taken care of" when questioned about his highly criticized immigration policies. But eyewitness accounts from doctors, lawyers, politicians, and journalists have told a different story.

Earlier this week, lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other pro-bono law firms reported that they've been unable to locate the parents of 545 children who were separated at the border as a result of the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy announced in April 2018.

The controversial policy was officially announced in April 2018, but NBC News reported that the Trump administration was running a "pilot program" that separated migrant kids from their parents in Texas in 2017. While Trump signed an executive order in June 2018 to end family separations, the policy had separated thousands of children from their families. And reuniting these parents with their children has not been easy, with 545 currently missing. What's more, lawyers believe many of them have been deported back to their home countries without their children.

During Thursday night's debate, Trump was questioned about how these families would be reunited. "Do you have a plan to reunite the kids?" moderator Kristen Welker asked. "Yes ... we're trying very hard ... they are so well taken care of, they're in facilities that are so clean." Eyewitnesses who have visited these facilities, however, paint a different picture.

"Children Sitting On Concrete Floors"

After Trump claimed children in U.S. custody were "well taken care of," MSNBC news correspondent Jacob Soboroff shared his own experience visiting the McAllen Border Patrol processing station in Texas.

"What I saw there was little children sitting on concrete floors covered by Mylar blankets supervised by security contractors in a watch tower," he told Rachel Maddow. "It makes me sick every time I recall it."

"Dirty, Hungry, Sick, Scared"

Elora Mukherjee, an immigrants' rights advocate and law professor from Columbia University who's been visiting border patrol holding facilities for over a decade, spoke to those conditions in June 2019 when Trump administration lawyers were arguing that children did not need essentials like soap or toothbrushes, according to MSNBC.

Mukherjee called the facilities "appalling," and the 350 children she met were "dirty, hungry, sick, scared," and unable to speak to any of their loved ones. She went on to say that "the children couldn’t bear to bring themselves to play because they were trying to conserve their energy to stay alive."

"Intentional Mental And Emotional Abuse"

Dr. Dolly Lucio Sevier visited the Ursula facility in McAllen, Texas in June 2019 and in a report obtained by ABC News, she compared the conditions to "torture facilities." Lucio Sevier reported that children were living in "extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food."

The physician also alleged that teen mothers were not able to wash baby bottles. "To deny parents the ability to wash their infant's bottles is unconscionable and could be considered intentional mental and emotional abuse," Lucio Sevier said in the report.

"Children Caring For Other Children"

Warren Binford, a law professor at Willamette University in Oregon, shared her own report with PBS News after she visited a Border Patrol detention center in Clint, Texas. She told the news outlet there was a flu outbreak and an infestation of head lice in the facility, with children being left with "almost no adult supervision" after being separated from their parents.

"We have children caring for other young children. For example, we saw a little boy in diapers — or he had no diapers on. He should have had a diaper on. He was 2 years old. And when I was asked why he didn't have diapers on, I was told he didn't need it," Binford told PBS News.

"Drinking Out Of Toilets"

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez visited one of Custom Border Patrol facilities and described the horrifying conditions she saw, including "people drinking out of toilets." As she later pointed out on Twitter, "This was them on their GOOD behavior in front of members of Congress."

While Trump has not explained how his administration will reunite the 545 parents with their children, Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, vowed on Twitter that they "will not stop till we find EVERY one."