Joel, a 15-year-old Honduran boy, was waiting on buses from Saturday to Wednesday, according to Dr. Amy Cohen, a psychiatrist and executive director of Every Last One, a group that advocates for migrant children. CNN uses only its first name for privacy reasons.
For more than three days, Joel was trapped on buses, waiting to be transported to his Washington state family, Cohen, who has spoken to Joel and his family, told CNN. “They brought them snacks, he said. They didn’t bring him any real food,” Cohen said. “They were never allowed to go out and stretch their legs or anything like that.”
“It was absolutely horrible. I asked him, what was the feeling on the bus? And he told me everyone was desperate,” Cohen added.
“This is completely unacceptable,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement to CNN. “We are quickly investigating this to get to the bottom of what happened and we will work to make sure this never happens again. The safety and well-being of children is our priority.”
Asked about the incident, which was first reported by NBC News, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said: “First, let me say that the child reports, to which you referred , were on buses outside HHS facilities in Dallas for extended periods of time are outrageous. ”
“They are unacceptable and do not meet our standard for childcare. This is true for the president. It is true for the secretary of health and human services. It is true for all governments. It is being fully investigated, as we have. at this point, as this possibly happened. There is no excuse for this type of treatment, “he added.
The Biden administration has previously been brought under control for its management of the influx of minors at the border. In recent weeks, officials have struggled to quickly transfer unaccompanied migrant children from prison-like border patrol facilities to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services. Although the number of children in the custody of the border patrol has plummeted, more than 20,000 remain in the custody of the HHS.
Joel met Thursday with his uncle and mother in Washington state. But the incident, Cohen said, is indicative of the seemingly disorganized effort to reunite some children with their families. He recalled cases of parents receiving calls alerting them abruptly that their son was arriving at a place, sometimes for hours.
“Last week we had a father who lived in Alabama and was told his son arrived in four hours in North Carolina. They were five and a half hours away. They had to drive five and a half hours in Carolina. from the North to pick up her child, ”she said.