Exclusive: A Child Held at Border Patrol’s Troubled Clint Facility Shares Her Story

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January 6, 2020
by
Patrice Taddonio Digital Writer & Audience Development Strategist, FRONTLINE

Nine-year-old Dariana doesn’t remember exactly when she was separated from her father after they crossed the border into the United States.

But she does remember the color of the uniforms of the armed guards at the troubled Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas where she and hundreds of other migrant children were detained.

“They were green,” she tells FRONTLINE. “Green, but they had guns in their holsters.”

Last year, reported conditions inside the Clint facility — from children in clothes covered in mucous and vomit, to young kids sleeping on cement floors in overcrowded cells — sparked a national outcry and congressional hearings. Now, in the FRONTLINE documentary Targeting El Paso, Dariana becomes the first child held inside the now notorious Border Patrol station who has been known to speak to the media about conditions there.

There were no adults caring for her, she says — only cameras.

“I had to sleep on the floor with the other kids,” she tells FRONTLINE in the above excerpt. “We would shower every other day. They didn’t let us go out much. Maybe we’d go out about 15 minutes a day. And the rest of the time we were locked up.”

Ultimately, Dariana says, she was held at Clint for 11 days in a detention block with 50 other kids. She became one of the children detained there after she and her father, Elder, crossed into the U.S. near El Paso, the Texas border city that has come to play a key role in America’s ongoing battle over immigration. After crossing, her father, Elder, was arrested and charged with illegal reentry. Dariana was then labeled as an unaccompanied minor, separated, and sent to Clint – a Border Patrol facility 20 miles outside El Paso that had been secretly designated to hold such minors en masse.  

Clint would go on to become a flashpoint in the national debate over the U.S. government’s treatment of migrant children — and Dariana was transferred to a facility in New York City contracted by the Department of Health and Human Services, where she says she received better treatment. After three months there, the nine-year-old appeared before an immigration judge and asked to be sent back to her family in Honduras.

“Our American dream is over,” her father, Elder, tells FRONTLINE in the above excerpt. “But at least we have her back. That’s the important thing.”

For more on Dariana’s story, the controversial decision to hold large numbers of children at the Clint Border Patrol station, and the Trump administration’s argument that accounts from inside the facility were overblown, watch Targeting El Paso in full below:

From producer Marcela Gaviria, correspondent Martin Smith and their team, the documentary investigates how the border city that’s been called the Ellis Island of the Southwest became a testing ground for some of President Donald Trump’s most controversial immigration policies, a subject of his anti-immigrant rhetoric, the site of a surge of migrant families crossing the border — and, on August 3 of last year, the target of a white supremacist with an assault rifle.

Targeting El Paso premiered Tuesday, Jan. 7 on PBS. Along with more than 200 other documentaries, it is now streaming at pbs.org/frontline and on the PBS Video App.

This post has been updated.

 

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