At least nine infants under one year old, including one as young as five months old, are being held by ICE in a rural detention facility in Texas without the legal care required.
That's what three immigration groups said in a letter to the inspector general and head of the Department of Homeland Security's civil rights and civil liberties on Thursday afternoon. The groups said there was "an alarming increase in the number of infants" held by ICE, and urged the ministry to "immediately intervene" in the Dilley, Texas facility.
"We are very concerned about the lack of specialized medical care available at Dilley for this vulnerable population," says the letter from the three groups – the US Council on Immigration, the American Immigration Lawyers Association and Catholic Immigration Network, Inc.
Human rights groups alleged that infants had been subjected to "long delays before receiving medical attention and the lack of appropriate follow-up treatment". They said that a child had been detained for more than 20 days.
"ICE is bound to respect basic standards relating to the protection of non-citizen minors in its custody," says the letter, citing the Supreme Court case Flores v. Reno. "This has repeatedly shown his inability to do it."
The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to an email from CBS News requesting comments on the letter. The Office of the Inspector General of the Ministry also did not respond immediately to an e-mail requesting a comment.
Infants and their mothers are held at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, a rural town of less than 4,000. The center is "located an hour's drive from San Antonio, the nearest metropolitan center and equipped with facilities able to provide specialized medical services," the letter says.
Some mothers in the detention center reported that their infants had lost weight since arriving at the detention center and "are not feeding well because of sudden changes in formula," the letter said. According to their mother, other infants manifested behavioral and sleep problems during their detention in ICE.
The complaint also included a letter from Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), a non-governmental organization based in New York.
"PHR expresses deep concern at a reported increase in the number of young children being held at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas," the group wrote in a letter to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. "Given the inherent harms and health risks associated with the detention of children, which are exacerbated in the case of infants and young children, PHR is asking the government to exercise full discretion to obtain immediate release. of these families. "