MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
For the next few minutes, we're going to be talking about some of the ongoing issues at the U.S.-Mexico border. A court-imposed deadline to reunite families separated at the border has come and gone. Yesterday, the federal judge in San Diego who set that original deadline held a hearing where he commended the administration for reuniting more than 1,800 migrant children with their parents. But he also said attention must now turn to the hundreds who are still separated. Another hearing yesterday in Los Angeles addressed concerns about the treatment of those children. A federal judge there said she would appoint an independent monitor to look into reports of neglect and abuse of children at the detention facilities along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Julie Small is a criminal justice and immigration reporter from member station KQED. She attended that hearing, and she's with us now from Los Angeles. Julie, welcome.
JULIE SMALL, BYLINE: Glad to be here, Michel.
MARTIN: Tell us more about what happened in the hearing yesterday, if you would.
SMALL: Well, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee said she wanted to appoint an independent monitor to ensure that migrant children are treated humanely. She's in charge of this decades-old settlement that sets strict limits on how long the government can detain children and what kind of conditions. And she said she needs someone to be her eyes and ears at immigration and Border Patrol facilities because she can't be everywhere at once. And we're hearing reports that things are getting worse.
MARTIN: Well, tell us more about what the advocates for children are saying.
SMALL: Well, they're finding that children - they're being served spoiled food, frozen sandwiches, water that is foul-smelling or water that they drank and then got ill. There are not enough mattresses to go around, so they're having to sleep on the floor. And there are even reports that they're being verbally abused. The other thing that's happening is, you know, under this settlement, children have rights. They're not supposed to be held in these restrictive environments for longer than 72 hours, but they are ending up in these Border Patrol facilities for much longer than that.
MARTIN: How did the government respond?
SMALL: Well, they say that they'd like to present evidence, before any monitor is appointed, to refute these claims. And they feel that they are doing a good job and they are adhering to the settlement. And they feel that it's not necessary to have this extra layer of oversight.
MARTIN: Did they specifically respond to the things that you cited, that the advocates are citing about the quality of the food and the water and just overall unsanitary conditions? Did they have any specific response to that?
SMALL: No, they didn't. They just said that they had their own reports. They had some data that would refute it, and the judge's responses to that was, well, we've had some problems with the government's record keeping. So how does that help me? She wants to go ahead and establish a monitor, and she said the government can come back later if they want and present their own evidence. But she's going to move forward with getting someone in place to have more oversight.
MARTIN: There was another hearing yesterday about the deadline to reunite separated children from their parents. Apparently, the government has made some strides in restoring some of these families. But apparently, there are still hundreds of kids who are still separated from their families. Can you tell us any more about that?
SMALL: Well, one of the alarming things is that there's about 400 of those children whose parents are no longer in the country. And there's questions about, you know, whether they were deported or left on their own. There is no plan yet in place to reunite those children with their parents. And also, a subset of that group, the government is saying, about 120 parents waived their rights to be reunified with their children.
The attorneys for the ACLU who are representing the families say, well, that's not what they're hearing. They're hearing that parents had no idea what they were being asked to sign. They were given a piece of paper, and they were told to sign it within five minutes. And it wasn't really explained to them. So they may have actually signed something but really had wanted to be reunited with their children. And again, that's a mess that needs to be untangled still.
MARTIN: That's KQED's Julie Small. Julie, thank you.
SMALL: Thank you.
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