US Border Patrol allows reporters to visit but does not allow pictures or interviews at holding facility housing children as young as four
Inside an old warehouse in south Texas, hundreds of children wait away from their parents in a series of cages created by metal fencing.
One cage had 20 children inside. Scattered about are bottles of water, bags of chips and large foil sheets intended to serve as blankets.
One teenager told an advocate who visited she was helping care for a young child she didnt know because the childs aunt was somewhere else in the facility. She said she had to show others in her cell how to change the girls diaper.
On Sunday, the US Border Patrol allowed reporters to briefly visit the facility where it holds families arrested at the southern border, responding to new criticism and protests over the Trump administrations zero tolerance policy and resulting separation of families.
More than 1,100 people were inside the large, dark facility that was divided into separate wings for unaccompanied children, adults on their own and mothers and fathers with children. The cages in each wing open into common areas, to use portable restrooms. The overhead lighting stays on around the clock.
Reporters were not allowed by agents to interview any of the detainees or take photos.
Nearly 2,000 children have been taken from their parents since the attorney general Jeff Sessions announced the policy, which directs homeland security officials to refer all cases of illegal entry into the US for prosecution.
Church groups and human rights advocates have sharply criticized the policy, calling it inhumane.
Stories have spread of children being torn from their parents arms, and parents not being able to find where their kids have gone. A group of congressional lawmakers visited the same facility on Sunday and were set to visit a longer-term shelter holding around 1,500 children many of whom were separated from their parents.
Those kids inside who have been separated from their parents are already being traumatized, said the Democratic senator Jeff Merkley, of Oregon, who was denied entry earlier this month to childrens shelter. It doesnt matter whether the floor is swept and the bedsheets tucked in tight.