U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents spend their days running the arriving unaccompanied alien children, or UACs, to the showers, bringing blankets to the laundry, preparing food and making trips to grocery stores.
These activities and more, including providing video games to the UAC’s, were extensively documented in a University of Texas at El Paso study titled, “Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) Project.” The research was funded by and partnered with the Department of Homeland Security.
Authors of the March 20 study, which received nearly no news media attention, conducted interviews and site visits with border agents and officials from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, who work daily with UACs.
“CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) reports that the biggest issue with UACs is the high maintenance that is associated with caring, feeding, and clothing them,” states the study.
The study offers a glimpse into the daily work lives of border agents, who need to care for each detained UAC for an average of 40 hours, until they are moved to either a long-term DHS facility, or, more routinely, placed with a foster family or a U.S.-based relative. It is usually the border agents who transport the UACs to their ultimate destination.
The authors visited the Fort Brown Station in Brownsville, Texas, where they reported every UAC that arrives and is scheduled for outside placement is first taken to get a shower and fresh clothes, with four agents alone dedicated to the shower runs.
“Every evening, four Border Patrol officers are responsible for having UACs transported to local shower facilities,” states the report. “Specifically, two buses/Border Patrol vans are used for shower runs.
“One bus transports all the older males to a local shelter in the region, and one bus transports all the younger males and female UACs to another local shelter in the region.”
Border agents informed the researchers that “resources are permanently committed to handle the UAC process.”
The study documents that in addition to the shower runs, the following duties are routinely conducted by Fort Brown personnel:
- Border Patrol agents make trips to local grocery stores to buy the UACs food and drinks for their consumption while at the station;
- Agents themselves prepare sandwiches for the UACs and family units;
- The agents transport blankets used by the UACs to an off-site location to wash and dry.
The researchers found that although DHS maintains contracts with private firms to transport the UACs to their locations of placement, in reality it is usually the border agents who must escort the minors and even drive the buses. Usually the UACs are placed within a six-hour drive of the border facility.
The study notes the private firms are strained for transportation resources since most of their buses are being used to transport adult illegal aliens.
The study says the officers are responsible for “UAC medical needs, and whether buses have all of the safety equipment necessary for transportation (e.g., seat belts).”
The University of Texas at El Paso conducted the study as co-leader of the National Center for Border Security and Immigration, an official DHS partner organization that advises the U.S. agency on immigration and border issues.
The report came with a disclaimer that the findings only represent the conclusions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of any government agency.