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Hazards at Migrant Detention Facilities

A woman who identified herself as Jennifer sits with her son Jaydan at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in McAllen, Texas.

A woman who identified herself as Jennifer sits with her son Jaydan at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in McAllen, Texas.

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

What’s at Stake

The Department of Homeland Security has shown flagrant disregard for the health of those in custody, including the improper use of industrial chemical disinfectants and attempting to build new facilities on highly toxic superfund sites.

Overview

In a series of legal actions, Earthjustice has sought information — including environmental reviews of sites and analysis of the health and safety impacts on those in detention — on multiple migrant detention facilities to ensure the health of those in custody.

Freedom of Information Act requests have revealed details of multiple proposed migrant detention centers on military bases that may have been in proximity to toxic waste sites.

  • Fort Bliss has several Superfund sites, which are polluted locations requiring a long-term response to clean up hazardous material contamination.
  • At Goodfellow Air Force Base, the area where tents would have been constructed is directly over a former firing range and adjacent to a closed but uncapped landfill.

Exposure to toxic chemicals from these sites can cause cancer, neurological damage, developmental harm, and many other diseases. The plans for detention facilities at these sites have since been put on hold.

Case Updates

July 15, 2021 | Legal Document

Letter to Agencies about Fort Bliss (July 2021)

Earthjustice, along with Hispanic Federation, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, GreenLatinos, and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, joined the growing calls for the closure of the migrant child detention center located at the Fort Bliss Army Base in El Paso, Texas, due to flagrant environmental contamination in the area. In a letter submitted to federal agencies, groups expressed alarm by the growing number of reports of dangerous and unsafe conditions for children at Fort Bliss and other emergency intake shelters. They also asked for the closure of this detention center. This comes as recent news reports have detailed horrifying conditions at Fort Bliss, including contractors ill-equipped to care for children, severe emotional distress, and inhumane treatment.