(KFYI News) – Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne visited the Border Patrol facility in Nogales on Thursday where hundreds of migrant children at a time – most of them from Central American countries – are being held pending relocation.
Horne planned the trip as part of his legal duty to ensure the protection of children in our state. "One of my roles as attorney general is as a protector of the welfare of minors," he told KFYI News after his return to Phoenix. "The biggest division in my department is child protection."
As such, Horne was concerned about media reports last week that kids in the center weren't being fed, and didn't have access to showers, private toilets, or clean clothes.
This week, the Border Patrol has been allowing the media and government officials to visit the holding facility, located in a warehouse in Nogales. During his visit, Horne told KFYI News, he noted that the situation seems to have improved considerably.
"Yeah, I'm much less concerned," Horne said. "Two weeks ago we were reading stories about kids who hadn't had a shower in nine days. They've brought in portable showers, and so the kids are getting showers every day, their clothes are getting laundered, they're being fed, so their basic needs are being met."
Horne attributes the improvement to the fact that the Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have stepped in. "FEMA took the lead. They have a lot of experience with large numbers of displaced people, and Border Patrol is working with them."
Horne says he's still concerned that the federal government seems to be acting as a "coyote" in shuffling such illegal immigrant children around the country. The attorney general says the government is being "too lenient" by allowing the kids to relocate with relatives already in the U.S. instead of sending them back to their country of origin. He feels the lenient treatment is fulfilling the message the kids are getting in their home countries: "They've been led to believe that once they give themselves up (to Border Patrol), they'll be able to stay in this country." As a result, Horne says, that will simply encourage more and more people to enter the U.S. illegally.