LEILA FADEL, HOST:
Since the death of two Guatemalan children earlier this month in U.S. custody, the Department of Homeland Security has ordered more rigorous medical screenings of child migrants in detention. In El Paso, community volunteers are also responding with pop-up clinics at local shelters. Reporter Monica Ortiz Uribe spent some time at one of these shelters with a pediatrician who treats migrants. She joins us this morning to tell us more. Good morning.
MONICA ORTIZ URIBE, BYLINE: Hi, Leila. Good morning.
FADEL: So what are these pop-up clinics, and why do they exist?
ORTIZ URIBE: They began in response to a flood of Central American families coming across the border over the last three months. These families are spending days in processing facilities that are overcrowded and unsanitary. So it's easy to get sick, especially if you're a child. Those families who've been released with a future court date end up at shelters in border cities like El Paso. And it quickly became clear that they needed medical attention. So community organizers set up these makeshift clinics supplied by donations and staffed by volunteer doctors and nurses. Here's Dr. Bert Johansson, a local pediatrician.
BERT JOHANSSON: A lot of us brought our own stethoscopes and otoscopes and over-the-counter medicines. And we had some ways of getting prescription meds. And we just lined the kids up and saw them.
FADEL: So what sort of cases is he seeing?
ORTIZ URIBE: Well, he's seeing severe dehydration, bacterial infections and pneumonia. And he's admitted some children to the hospital. And, you know, he told me he can tell these conditions might have been milder had these migrants had better access to medical care sooner. Back in 2014, when we had a big wave of unaccompanied minors, Dr. Johansson told me he visited a pop-up government shelter where he was treating kids within hours of their apprehension. Now he's not seeing migrants until days later. And that's because they're spending more time in these federal processing facilities. And as of now, it's unclear why. Customs and Border Protection has yet to answer that question.
FADEL: And I understand some of these volunteers are pretty passionate about what they do. Can you talk about that?
ORTIZ URIBE: Yes. So, for example, Dr. Johansson, better known as Dr. Bert - he's the son of immigrants. His father is Swedish. His mother is Honduran. Believe it or not, he says the first patient he treated back in October was from his mom's hometown.
JOHANSSON: These are very poor, very vulnerable people who obviously love their children. And they want a better life. I see my mother when I see these women.
ORTIZ URIBE: So as you can hear, Dr. Bert, like so many of the volunteers, clearly empathizes with these families. He and his colleagues work 60-hour weeks. But here they are on their own time without compensation helping these families. Being right on the border, El Paso has a rich immigrant history. It's often referred to as the Ellis Island of the Southwest. And newcomers continue to show up at its doorstep.
FADEL: Well, thank you so much for your work. That's reporter Monica Ortiz Uribe in El Paso. Thank you.
ORTIZ URIBE: You're welcome.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.