Tucson doctor responds to Border Patrol comments about care for migrants

Monastery volunteer speaks up for migrants

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Questions continue about the treatment of asylum seekers in U.S. custody, as reports put out by the federal government point to unsanitary and unhealthy conditions.

It has some in border protection hitting back, saying the problem isn't the care they're providing, but the migrants themselves.

This is what the El Paso Chief Border Patrol Agent had to say about hygiene claims Monday:

“We can take them to the shower and we can put them there but we can’t physically make them shower. It’s the same thing with brushing their teeth. We encounter children who’ve never brushed their teeth.” - Aaron Hull | El Paso Chief Border Patrol Agent

But on Tuesday, a doctor helping migrants at the Benedictine monastery in Tucson said that's just not true.

"What we’re seeing, at least here, in Tucson is that people want to take a shower,” said Dr. Herb McReynolds.

For six weeks Dr. McReynolds been volunteering at the Benedictine Monastery, tending to the migrants released from ICE detention. Giving them simple staples like toothbrushes, soap, and shampoo that he says they all gladly accept.

“Once they’ve done their intake, they have a chance to get some clean clothes and then they want to shower. There’s not anyone, to my knowledge, that’s refused a dental pack. No refusals of showers, no refusals of dental packs. You know, these people want to be clean they want to be healthy they want to have a better life.”

No one understands that more than Ana Hernandez. Another volunteer who spent seven years of her life living in Honduras, one of the poorest countries in Latin America. The comments made by Border Patrol remind her of a sentence she says her high school teacher in Honduras used to say.

"'The wealth of the poor is their hygiene’ and so that’s something that they believe to their core,” said Hernandez.

Hernandez and McReynolds agree that the comments made by Border Patrol can lead down dangerous roads.

"Once you begin to characterize them and marginalize them it’s a lot easier to just put them into a different group and not think of them as human beings,” said Dr. McReynolds.

And that it's taking the attention away from what they say is the real issue at hand: Our perspective.

"I think that things have to change and we have to see each other as human beings because that’s what we are.” said Hernandez.

Also in the spotlight—a New York Times report that said detention facilitates have seen outbreaks of scabies and chicken pox. Dr. McReynolds said they have seen a few cases of chicken pox here, in fact they have one right now, but those families are taken into isolation and cared for until they are healthy enough to make the next leg of their journey.

A deal is in the works to house asylum seekers inside Pima County’s juvenile justice facility. The county has tentatively agreed to lease an unused section of the juvenile facility so Catholic Community Services and other charitable organizations can “continue to provide aid to asylum seekers deposited in Tucson by the federal government.”

CCS has been using the Benedictine Monastery for almost a year, but the owner of the monastery is redeveloping it and CCS has to leave by July 26.

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