Migrants' advocates asked a federal judge on Wednesday to order the government to immediately allow access for doctors and inspections at border detention facilities in Texas where they say children are being held in "appalling" and dangerous conditions.
In a motion filed in U.S. District Court for central California, attorneys for a number of human rights, immigration and children's advocacy group said scores of children had been held for weeks without clean water, showers, toilets, toothbrushes, basic nutrition or adequate sleep at facilities administered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, in the El Paso and Rio Grande Valley border patrol sectors.
The government hadn't responded to the motion late Wednesday.
Officials of the Department of Homeland Security told NBC News this week that nearly 300 migrant children had been removed from a border station in Clint, Texas, in the wake of media reports about conditions at the facility.
The advocacy groups asked the court to find the government in contempt of a June 2017 court order that held that children continued to be held longer than 20 days in defiance of a 1997 settlement, known as the Flores Agreement, that limited how long and under what conditions the United States could detain immigrant children.
Citing what they called the "starkly unsanitary and unsafe conditions" at Texas border facilities, the organizations asked for an emergency order requiring that the government bring the facilities into compliance with the 1997 settlement and that affected children be promptly released to their parents or other close relatives.
It also asked that all El Paso and Rio Grande Valley facilities be inspected immediately and that independent doctors be allowed to examine children held in them.
"With each passing day, more hospitalizations are occurring and more lives are at risk," according to the motion, which said immediate action was needed to "end this health and welfare crisis, and prevent more illness and child deaths at the border."