A Mother Describes Her Experience In Migrant Detention Human rights advocates argue that immigrants in detention along the border are being held in conditions that violate basic standards. One family relates the situation under which they were detained.
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A Mother Describes Her Experience In Migrant Detention

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A Mother Describes Her Experience In Migrant Detention

A Mother Describes Her Experience In Migrant Detention

A Mother Describes Her Experience In Migrant Detention

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/631254964/631254965" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Human rights advocates argue that immigrants in detention along the border are being held in conditions that violate basic standards. One family relates the situation under which they were detained.

KORVA COLEMAN, HOST:

There are reports that U.S. border officials are discouraging migrants from applying for asylum. There are other stories of poor conditions at border holding facilities when people do get through for asylum interviews. Last Monday, immigrant rights attorneys filed a brief in federal court that laid out dozens of examples of unsavory conditions for migrants detained at the border. Reporter Alex Hall of member station KQED followed the story of one Mexican woman who was detained recently in California.

ALEX HALL, BYLINE: Thirty-year-old Elizabet fled her home in Michoacan - a state in southern Mexico - after criminals killed her brother and threatened to kill her, too. We're not using her last name because she's concerned they could still find her. She says that before she traveled to the U.S. border she had heard about kids getting separated from their parents, but she was more scared of staying in Mexico and risking that she or one of her children would be killed.

ELIZABET: (Speaking Spanish).

HALL: Even if they are separated, she thought, they'll be safer in the U.S.. So a few weeks ago, Elizabet, her husband and her three sons - ages 1, 5 and 9 - walked up to the Calexico Port of Entry two hours east of San Diego and asked for asylum. They were held at the border for six days while officials processed their asylum claim. She says it was freezing. They slept on bug-infested mats on the floor. Her kids were hungry. After a few days they started to lose weight. Her 1-year-old had only had formula, so she asked an officer for solid food.

ELIZABET: (Speaking Spanish).

HALL: She says the officer responded, this isn't a seven-star hotel; what do you want, dead kids or skinny kids? Elizabet says there were nine other moms waiting there with their children. Most were from Mexico. And most, like her, had come because criminal groups had threatened their families. Elizabet says Customs and Border Protection officers would call each of the women up one by one to talk. And when they came back, the women compared stories.

ELIZABET: (Speaking Spanish).

HALL: Most, she says, were told the same thing.

ELIZABET: (Speaking Spanish).

HALL: If you move forward with your application for asylum, you'll be placed in detention, possibly for more than a year - maybe with your kids, maybe not. On her sixth day in detention, Elizabet told the officers she wanted to go back to Mexico. She says they gave her a blank piece of paper - not an official form - and told her to write down why she was giving up her asylum claim. We asked CBP about the conditions that Elizabet described. They confirmed that she and her family were detained and then released. But as for the poor conditions, they pointed to a recent inspection report that found border facilities meet the court-required standards for detaining children.

ELIZABET: (Speaking Spanish).

HALL: Elizabet thinks migrants are treated poorly so they will give up their asylum claims. She says most of the other moms gave up theirs, too. Recently, I sent Elizabet a message on WhatsApp. She's found some work in Mexico and is staying there for now. She says she thought applying for asylum in the U.S. would be a way to keep her family safe. She was even willing to risk being separated from her children.

ELIZABET: (Speaking Spanish).

HALL: But then she saw them hungry and sick while they were held at the border.

ELIZABET: (Speaking Spanish).

HALL: "If this is what happened in six days," she says, "imagine what could happen if they were locked up for a year - or two." For NPR News, I'm Alex Hall.

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