The US detention center where sick children receive ‘the bare minimum’

At the Berks Family Residential Center, an immigrant detention facility in Leesport, Pennsylvania, advocates and former detainees say it’s normal for children held there to have health problems.

One mother, who asked to use her middle name Arely, told the Guardian that children often had fevers or vomited when she was detained at Berks. She said she watched helplessly as her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter threw up blood for three days.

Another woman – who asked to be referred to only by her middle name Fernanda because she still fears her antagonists in her home country – remembered children with the flu and respiratory illnesses, and how the on-site medical professionals would take their temperatures but never give out medicine. When Fernanda’s own daughter had fever, she had to go to the hospital just to get Tylenol, she said.

Since attorney Jacquelyn Kline began representing immigrant families detained at Berks in the summer of 2014, she said the majority of her clients have gotten sick. Usually, the illnesses have been minor. But sometimes, when common problems have gone ignored or untreated, they have spiraled to become something more.

“In my experience, they (the staff) do the bare minimum and they don’t want to do more than that unless it becomes a situation where they have to do it,” Kline said. “Because they don’t address things when there are minor issues, it allows them to become more serious issues.”

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