Homeland Security Report Confirms Diseases Spreading at Border Facilities

The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General released a memo on Thursday confirming the problem of communicable diseases that are being spread throughout detention centers. 

The OIG outlined a two-week report from the beginning of the month on the detention of Unaccompanied Alien Children. According to DHS IG John Roth’s memo to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, the IG office continues to make unannounced site visits to numerous detention centers along the southern border where Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are temporarily sheltering UACs.

The IG says they did not observe any misconduct or inappropriate conduct of DHS employees during their unannounced visits and did not receive any new complaints during their random interviews of UACs. However, the IG office stressed the problem of communicable diseases that are being spread at the detention centers.

“Many UAC and family units require treatment for communicable diseases, including respiratory illnesses, tuberculosis, chicken pox, and scabies,” the IG report said. “UAC and family unit illnesses and unfamiliarity with bathroom facilities resulted in unsanitary conditions and exposure to human waste in some holding facilities.” The report continued:

Contract cleaners and OHS employees are working to maintain sanitary conditions. DHS employees reported exposure to communicable diseases and becoming sick on duty. For example, during a recent site visit to the Del Rio USBP Station and Del Rio Port of Entry, CBP personnel reported contracting scabies, lice, and chicken pox. Two CBP Officers reported that their children were diagnosed with chicken pox within days of the CBP Officers’ contact with a UAC who had chicken pox. In addition, USBP personnel at the Clint Station and Santa Teresa Station reported that they were potentially exposed to tuberculosis. 

A senior spokesman for the CDC told Marc Siegel at Slate.com that HHS is spearheading medical services for facilities in southwest Texas and Arizona. According to Slate, it takes two to three weeks “for a vaccine to confer protection, [so] more cases of flu are likely within the centers. It is also possible that the disease will spread to the local community and beyond.”

Additionally, the IG report says that DHS employees are “donating clothing, toys, and games to UAC and family units,” as well as buying food “with their own money, to supplement contract food supplies.”


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