VOA’s Victoria Macchi contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON — More than 200 children held in a border facility described as unsafe and unsanitary last week were transferred to the care of another U.S. agency by Tuesday, U.S. health authorities confirmed.
In a statement emailed to VOA, U.S. Health and Human Services acknowledged it worked with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to remove 249 unaccompanied children from the CBP Clint Station facility in Texas.
The statement came after the Associated Press reported unsanitary living conditions and inadequate food and medical treatment at the facility.
The children held at Clint Station were those who crossed the border without authorization and without a guardian, and are referred to as “unaccompanied alien children,” or UACs.
While CBP is the agency that detains unauthorized border crossers, HHS generally takes custody of detained, unaccompanied children within 72 hours, as is mandated by law except for rare occasions in which a child is held by CBP for longer.
“UAC are waiting too long in CBP facilities that are not designed to care for children,” an HHS official told VOA.
The agency said it was able to expedite how soon children in its care were released to sponsors often an extended family member, like a grandparent. A process that was taking 90 days in November 2018 was down to an average of 44 days in May, according to HHS.
But like other agencies working with children and families detained at the border, HHS and CBP are struggling to meet the demands of the recent increase in arrivals.
Trump “personally concerned”
Meanwhile, despite the confirmation from HHS that 249 children were removed from the Clint facility, media outlets reported that an official from CBP, who briefed reporters on Tuesday, said the government moved more than 100 children back to the same facility .
CBP drew criticism from human rights groups and federal lawmakers over the AP report last week.
After signing an affordable housing executive order in the Oval Office on Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump said he was “personally concerned about the conditions” at border facilities after AP’s report.
Trump said “A lot of these young children come from places that you don’t even want to know about, the way they’ve lived, the way they’ve been.”
He also said his administration is trying to get Democrats to give “some humanitarian aid humanitarian money.”
CBP chief resigning
It is also unclear whether that report played a role in the announcement on Tuesday that the head of CBP, Acting Commissioner John Sanders, is resigning.
He will leave his post on July 5, a CBP official confirmed in an email to VOA.
The agency declined to provide further comment on the resignation.