Hundreds of migrants and their children are suffering from a variety of different illness, each of them hoping for medical treatment while waiting for their asylum claims to be fulfilled.
Between Dec. 22 and Sunday, the agency reported 451 cases referred to doctors or other providers, including 259 children. Among the children, half of the cases involved kids under the age of 5.
The ill migrants have been arriving with all kinds of ailments, many with flu or pneumonia that can be particularly pervasive and dangerous this time of year. Seventeen migrants have been hospitalized, including six children, according to the agency.
"The U.S. Border Patrol is doing everything in its power to handle this crisis," said Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan in a statement. But he added, "The status quo is not acceptable" given the wave of immigrants arriving.
small pop-up clinics were spread near the U.S.-Mexico border where volunteers are treating sich people with only a few folding tables, a couple of chairs, and a slim assortment of medical supplies.
The Border Patrol has been receiving assistance from the Coast Guard, which has sent medical teams to the border in the Yuma and Tucson, Arizona, and Rio Grande Valley sectors of the border. The Public Health Service also said it will deploy teams to help.
The Border Patrol is also changing procedures to enhance medical evaluations of children. Parents are being interviewed about their children's medical condition and history and kids' blood pressure, pulse and temperature are among the vitals being checked by assessment teams.
Earlier this month, two Guatemalan children died in U.S. custody, spurring questions over the quality of medical care at Border Patrol processing centers. Federal officials have since ordered more rigorous medical screenings of child migrants.