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US Border Patrol is buying thousands of onesies for detained infants

REUTERS/Adria Malcolm
Many of the migrants in US custody are too young to fend for themselves.
  • Justin Rohrlich
By Justin Rohrlich

Geopolitics reporter

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The United States Border Patrol (USBP) will buy as many as 1,800 infant onesies between now and the end of next February for babies up to 12 months old, according to a $448,000 contract the agency signed earlier this week. The clothing will be delivered twice a month to two holding facilities in the El Paso, Texas area.

The items “are essential for the health and comfort of the detainees while in USBP custody,” explains an accompanying statement of work.

The Border Patrol will begin receiving the onesies on June 17. It will also be getting thousands of toddler-size T-shirts, sweatpants, and socks, as well as 7,200 pairs of girls’ panties and nearly 10,000 pairs of boys’ white briefs, in sizes ranging from “Youth-Small” to “Youth-XL.”

Adult-size T-shirts, sweats, briefs, panties, and polyester sports bras have also been ordered to the same USBP detention centers, with an identical delivery schedule. The facilities are located in El Paso and Donna, Texas, a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) spokesperson told Quartz. The “soft-sided” structures comprise what have been described in the media as “tent cities.”

A May 30 report by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of the Inspector General found “dangerous overcrowding” in adult housing areas at a third El Paso lockup, warning that “rising tensions among detainees could turn violent.”

The purchases by the Border Patrol follow a recent order by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for 20,000 baby bottles, 3,000 boxes of baby wipes, 2,224,000 baby diapers, and 144,000 pairs of shower shoes, of which 36,000 will be size extra-small, for a newly-erected tent city holding families and unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the US.

That facility, located in Donna, Texas provides “temporary housing, meals, showers, clean clothing, and medical area for the family units and UACs,” the agency said in a contracting document, which described allowing “35 square feet per detainee of open space plus 12 square feet to account for sleeping mat space.”

In recent years, there has been an uptick in the number of families with children seeking asylum in the US, as they flee violence in Central America. Policies instituted by US president Donald Trump have also created more “unaccompanied children” by detaining their parents, many of whom have not committed any crime, leaving them in need of care.

In February, 76,000 people were apprehended at the southern border, including 36,000 who were traveling with family members—the highest number in 12 years.

Read the full text of the USBP purchase order here:

This article has been updated with comment from DHS.

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