Lawmakers call border detention center conditions 'child abuse'

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United States Reps. Elizabeth Esty and Rosa DeLauro toured both a processing and detention center at the southern border, saying the conditions there were far worse than expected and calling them "child abuse."

"The processing center is self-described by the border patrol. It's like a lockup," DeLauro said. "There are cells, rooms that are cells. The place is freezing -- it's cold. One cell, two little boys. Shorts and a T-shirt, they're rubbing their arms."

The congresswomen say it's unknown just how many children have been separated from their parents, but say they believe that number is somewhere around 2,400. And they say that's just since April, when the "zero tolerance" policy went into effect.

The two say during the trip, they spoke with 15 women, and only one knew where her child was.

The representatives were joined by two doctors from the Yale Child Study Center when they spoke Monday. They say family separation can lead to long-term effects for the children, including PTSD and anxiety, and in turn could lead to drug and alcohol use.

The doctors say the first step is to end the separation, and then get the children the right resources to cope.

"We know what we need to do," said Dr. Linda Mayes. "Now we need to figure out how to do it in the most effective way and bring the expertise that we have to the families."

On Tuesday, the congresswomen say they're going to be taking their concerns back to the House, where the appropriations committee will debate a number of line items regarding family separation.

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