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Judge: independent monitor needed at Texas border facilities

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Security personal stand before shoes and toys left at the Tornillo Port of Entry where minors crossing the border without proper papers have been housed after being separated from parents and adult relatives after illegally crossing the border. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES – A federal judge in Los Angeles said Friday that she will appoint an independent monitor to evaluate conditions for immigrant children in U.S. border facilities in Texas following a spate of reports of spoiled food, insufficient water and frigid conditions faced by the youngsters and their parents.

Judge Dolly M. Gee said she reached her decision after seeing a “disconnect” between U.S. government monitors’ assessment of conditions in facilities in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and the accounts of more than 200 immigrant children and their parents detailing numerous problems.

“It seems like there continue to be persistent problems,” she said during a hearing on a longstanding settlement in a case focusing on the care of children in government custody. “I need to appoint an independent monitor to give me an objective viewpoint about what is going on at the facilities.”

Peter Schey, an attorney who represents immigrant children detained by the U.S government, said problems have worsened with children now spending three to six days in U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities, where they were previously held one to three days.

“We’ve seen an intensification with all the chaos the administration has caused,” said Schey, who has long requested an independent monitor.

Sarah Fabian, a Justice Department attorney, opposed the appointment without having an opportunity to respond to the accounts of children and parents collected by immigrant advocates at facilities in June and July. She said border authorities, for example, provide water fountains and jugs in cells and that facility conditions must comply with agency policies.

Both sides have until Aug. 10 to agree on a proposed monitor. If they can’t, each will make suggestions to the judge and she will choose.

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