A portrait of life in the shelters for the children detained after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border... Adan Galicia Lopez, 3, was separated from his mother for four months... Do not misbehave. Do not sit on the floor. Do not share your food. Do not use nicknames. Also, it is best not to cry. Doing so might hurt your case.
Lights out by 9 p.m. and lights on at dawn, after which make your bed according to the step-by-step instructions posted on the wall. Wash and mop the bathroom, scrubbing the sinks and toilets. Then it is time to form a line for the walk to breakfast.
.. one of more than 100 government-contracted detention facilities for migrant children around the country that are a rough blend of boarding school, day care center and medium security lockup.
.. The facility’s list of no-no’s also included this: Do not touch another child, even if that child is your hermanito or hermanita — your little brother or sister.
Leticia had hoped to give her little brother a reassuring hug. But “they told me I couldn’t touch him,” she recalled.
.. the government returned slightly more than half of the 103 children under the age of 5 to their migrant parents.
.. But more than 2,800 children — some of them separated from their parents, some of them classified at the border as “unaccompanied minors” — remain in these facilities
.. these facilities are united by a collective sense of aching uncertainty — scores of children gathered under a roof who have no idea when they will see their parents again.
.. She would quickly write these notes after she had finished her math worksheets, she said, so as not to violate yet another rule: No writing in your dorm room. No mail.
.. She kept the letters safe in a folder for the day when she and her mother would be reunited, though that still hasn’t happened. “I have a stack of them,” she said.
.. it chose one of the harshest deterrents ever employed by a modern president: the separation of migrant children from their parents.
.. earning “big brother” status for being good role models for younger children. They were rewarded the privilege of playing video games.
.. You couldn’t touch others. You couldn’t run. You had to wake up at 6:30 on weekdays, with the staff making banging noises until you got out of bed.
.. Diego said that he was not afraid, because he always behaved. He knew to watch for a staff member “who was not a good guy.” He had seen what happened to Adonias, a small boy from Guatemala who had fits and threw things around.
“They applied injections because he was very agitated,” Diego said. “He would destroy things.”
A person he described as “the doctor” injected Adonias in the middle of a class, Diego said. “He would fall asleep.”
.. But because of the rules, the two boys did not hug.
.. Yoselyn Bulux, 15, is a rail-thin girl from Totonicapán, Guatemala, with long dark hair and no clear memory of how she summoned the strength to climb the wall at the border.
.. “If you do something bad, they report you,” Yoselyn recalled. “And you have to stay longer.”
.. Also on Saturday, Yoselyn met with a counselor, whom she liked. They talked about her hope to be with her mother soon.
.. then the woman serving as her escort handed Yoselyn over to her father, who was so overcome at the sight of his daughter that he could not speak.
.. They were taken to the shelter, given new clothes and separated: Victor to the boys’ area, Leidy to the girls’.
.. But at least he had a trabajadora de caso — a caseworker — named Linda who helped him navigate his new world. “She did everything she could to find my mother,” Victor said. “She called every state.”
.. The walls that separate the sleeping quarters do not reach the high ceilings, which means that sounds travel in the yawning spaces within the 250,000-square-foot building. One boy will make a loud animal noise, after which another will emit an animal-like response.
“Someone will start mooing,” the employee said. “They just think it’s funny. They just do it long enough so everyone can hear, and then we all start laughing.”
.. staff is overworked and a little stressed out by the 12-hour shifts and the considerable responsibilities.
.. During the day, the staff is required to maintain a ratio of one worker for every eight children. The ratio sets the tempo and culture at Casa Padre, the employee said. “It’s a big deal if we’re out of ratio.”
.. If one boy in a classroom needs to use the restroom, then a staff member has to find seven others who also want to go to the bathroom. “They’ll all stand in a line and then we’ll walk to the restroom,”
.. Some of the boys at Casa Padre were separated from their parents at the border, but most were caught crossing without a parent or guardian. All seem to keep themselves entertained with soccer or movies or video games.
.. “If they get sad, it’s like a quiet thing,” the employee said. “You’ll see them sit on the floor and just kind of wrap their arms around themselves.”
.. Some time in the evening is set aside for prayer. Boys can be found praying in a classroom, in a game room, in a bedroom. Some kneel.