Migrant girls being held in detention centers near the U.S.-Mexico border are “visibly” bleeding through their underwear and pants while menstruating due to a lack of access to sanitary products, according to a new lawsuit.
The suit, filed earlier this week by 19 states, challenges the Department of Homeland Security’s new regulations for detaining migrant children. A 26-page investigation included in the lawsuit found that children were living in “appalling” conditions, according to Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson.
The investigation, conducted by a civil rights attorney for Ferguson’s office, found that detained children were living in extremely cramped quarters, were denied medical care and were not given enough basic necessities such as toothbrushes and soap. Some reported being put in cages as punishment.
Among the testimonials, migrant teenage girls discussed a lack of access to menstrual products including pads and tampons. The girls reported that they were only give one sanitary pad a day while on their periods, and they were often left to sit in soiled underwear and pants.
According to the suit:
Another girl was detained for ten days and never offered a shower, even though she was on her period and was given only one sanitary pad a day. After a number of days, she summoned her courage and asked for a shower, and was given one. She recalls there was another girl at the facility who was also on her period. They were each given one sanitary pad per day. Although the guards knew they had their periods, they were not offered showers or a change of clothes, even when the other girl visibly bled through her pants. This girl had no choice but to continue to wear her soiled underwear and pants.
The lawsuit argues that the way DHS is handling children in detention centers essentially rescinds the Flores settlement, a 1997 agreement which limits the amount of time the government can detain immigrant children. The Flores settlement also established guidelines for safe and sanitary conditions in detention centers that provide children with basic needs like food, water and medical care.
California Governor Gavin Newsom (D), who is leading the charge on the lawsuit, criticized President Donald Trump for his policies on immigration and family separation.
“Yet again, President Trump is disregarding basic human rights and using helpless immigrant children as political pawns to further his ideological agenda,” Newsom said in a Monday statement. “California will emphatically assert itself to protect the welfare and safety of all children, regardless of where they come from or the color of their skin.”