A lawsuit filed against the Department of Homeland Security this week by 19 states claims that migrant girls held in detention centers at the southern U.S. border are “visibly” bleeding through their clothes, as they are denied access to sanitary products during menstruation.
Huffington Post reported that the 26-page investigation included with the lawsuit found children living in “appalling” conditions while in federal custody. Specifically, the investigation found that “detained children were living in extremely cramped quarters, were denied medical care and were not given enough basic necessities such as toothbrushes and soap. Some reported being put in cages as punishment.”
Other essentials denied to migrant children were products like sanitary pads and tampons. Teenage girls said they were given just one pad per day during their periods and often bled through their clothing.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who is part of the lawsuit, said interviews with the detained children revealed "appalling conditions at federal detention facilities.”
“In addition to a lack of toothbrushes, soap or access to showers reported earlier in the media, the children reported extremely cramped cells, younger kids put in cages as punishment and guards throwing food on the ground for children to fight over,” Ferguson said, according to The Independent.
Lawyer Alma Poletti, an investigator in Ferguson’s civil rights division, said in testimony included with the lawsuit:
Another girl was detained for ten days and never offered a shower, even though she was on her period and was given only one sanitary pad a day. After a number of days, she summoned her courage and asked for a shower, and was given one. She recalls there was another girl at the facility who was also on her period. They were each given one sanitary pad per day. Although the guards knew they had their periods, they were not offered showers or a change of clothes, even when the other girl visibly bled through her pants. This girl had no choice but to continue to wear her soiled underwear and pants.
The lawsuit aims to challenge President Donald Trump’s proposal to detain migrant families indefinitely, despite the 1997 Flores Agreement, which does not allow the government to hold children for more than three weeks and requires they be held in humane conditions.
“Detaining families indefinitely and needlessly inflicting trauma on young children is not an immigration policy — it’s an abhorrent abuse of power,” Ferguson said. “The president’s actions and policies are cruel, inhumane and illegal.”