Children are alternating schedules to make space for one another in confined facilities, some kids haven't seen sunlight in days, and others are taking turns showering, often going days without one.
That's the reality for the thousands of unaccompanied migrant children held up in US Border Patrol custody for days on end, according to case managers, attorneys and Border Patrol agents.
Bunk beds have been brought in to one of the processing facilities to help accommodate the influx of children. "Some of those are up to three bunks high," an agent told CNN, adding that children are also sleeping on plastic cots and mats on the floor and benches.
Customs and Border Protection is on pace to encounter more individuals on the border than in the last 20 years, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday, adding that the agency is coming across children as young as six and seven years old.
More than 300 unaccompanied migrant children have been in Border Patrol custody for more than 10 days, CNN has learned. More than 4,200 minors are currently in custody, with an average time of 120 hours.
With an increasing number of children crossing the US-Mexico border alone, Border Patrol facilities are where kids have to stay until officials can transfer them to shelters that are appropriate for them. These facilities are designed to care for adults, not kids, and are akin to jail-like facilities with concrete walls and benches.
Children at stations in the Tucson, Arizona, region, for instance, have to be transported from Border Patrol stations to a central coordination center to get showers, the Border Patrol agent told CNN.
"There are kids that have been there days and days," the agent said, pointing out that the agency is abiding by the law to care for children, except it is unable to meet the 72-hour legal requirement. "You just can't right now."
Federal law requires unaccompanied children to be turned over within 72 hours to the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees a shelter network designed to house minors.
The senior official heading Customs and Border Protection, Troy Miller, told reporters that minors receive three meals daily, have 24/7 access to snacks and drinks and that showers are provided at least every 48 hours. They also have access to a recreation area, Miller said.
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