The Biden administration is investigating conditions of hundreds of migrant children held in a Fort Bliss military installation located on the outskirts of El Paso, Texas, White House officials said Friday.
Vice President Kamala Harris' spokesperson, Symone Sanders, told reporters President Joe Biden and Harris instructed Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to conduct a "thorough investigation" into conditions at the tent camp inside the Fort Bliss base holding unaccompanied migrant children.
"The administration is taking this very seriously," Sanders said onboard Air Force Two, according to CBS. The plane took Harris along with Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to El Paso on Friday.
Reports have since come out that unaccompanied children housed in Fort Bliss have been constantly monitored for self-harm, escape attempts, and panic attacks.
A White House official added Biden did not order a formal investigation.
"While the care of children is deeply important to this administration – HHS has already been looking into Fort Bliss and numerous aspects have significantly been improved," the official stated.
Some of the distressed teenagers on the base have been placed on one-on-one supervision 24 hours a day to make sure they do not hurt themselves. In light of the matter and concerns of self-harm, officials at the tent camp have prohibited the children from using pencils, nail clippers, regular toothbrushes, and metal items.
HHS has stated more mental healthcare workers and case managers have been deployed to help the children at Fort Bliss. The department added the number of unaccompanied children at the base has decreased from nearly 5,000 in late April to 1,500 this week.
Becerra said Thursday his department set up more than a dozen emergency sites like Fort Bliss to get migrant children out of Border Patrol holding facilities, which had been severely overcrowded in March. He added the space at traditional shelters had been depleted.
"I will agree with anyone who says that that's not where you're going to do long-term care for a child," Becerra said. "We get that.
"But it's far better," he added, "than the deserts they were in. It is far better than an adult detention facility. And it is absolutely providing them, these children, with everything you would expect a child to get to provide for their basic needs and the attention they require."
Harris traveled to El Paso to tour Customs and Border Protection migrant processing facilities, but her Friday visit did not include a tour of Fort Bliss' tent city.
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