The drawings were done by three children, ages 10 and 11, after they were released from border patrol custody to the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center
Pediatricians recently released heartbreaking drawings, completed by children under the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, that show the grim realities of what these young migrants are facing as they’re being separated from their parents.
Doctors with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) were given the drawings, which show people behind bars and in cages, by a social worker at the Catholic Charities Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, the AAP tells PEOPLE.
Since being released by the CBP, the migrant children have been staying at the center, which is run by Sister Norma Pimentel and where many families go to “get their first shower, clean clothes and a hot meal after arriving in the U.S.”
While under the center’s care, the children were asked by a mental health clinician specializing in Latino child trauma at the center last week to depict their time under CBP custody on canvases, according to the organization.
Three of those illustrations — drawn by a 10-year-old boy from Guatemala, an 11-year-old from Guatemala, and another 10-year-old child — were then brought to the attention of the AAP due to their particularly alarming content. They were later released to CNN.
Dr. Collen Kraft, a former president of the AAP, said the drawings were incredibly heartbreaking, in part due to these children feeling like they were behind bars.
“The fact that the drawings are so realistic and horrific gives us a view into what these children have experienced,” Kraft told the outlet. “When a child draws this, it’s telling us that [the] child felt like he or she was in jail.”
AAP says it was not immediately clear which CBP facilities housed these children. They also mentioned to CNN that they are working with CBP officers to advise on properly screening and caring for children in their custody, but have made little progress after multiple meetings.
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Though the children appear to feel like prisoners, the CBP claims in a statement to PEOPLE that they have been providing “the best care possible” to people in their custody.
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) leverages our limited resources to provide the best care possible to those in our custody, especially children,” the group says. “As DHS and CBP leadership have noted numerous times in testimony to Congress and in numerous media engagements that our short-term holding facilities were not designed to hold vulnerable populations.”
“CBP works closely with our partners at the Department of Health and Human Services to transfer unaccompanied children to their custody as soon as placement is identified, and as quickly and expeditiously as possible to ensure proper care,” they add.
Amid the controversy, President Donald Trump has seemingly weighed in on the issue.
In a thread on Twitter on Wednesday, Trump, 73, claimed that the facilities are nicer than many of the migrants’ homelands and said if they were unhappy with the conditions, that they should return to their native countries.
“Our Border Patrol people are not hospital workers, doctors or nurses. The Democrats bad Immigration Laws, which could be easily fixed, are the problem. Great job by Border Patrol, above and beyond,” he wrote. “Many of these illegals aliens are living far better now than where they came from, and in far safer conditions.”
“If Illegal Immigrants are unhappy with the conditions in the quickly built or refitted detentions centers, just tell them not to come. All problems solved!” added Trump.
The alarming drawings come one week after a heartwrenching photograph surfaced of a father and daughter’s dead bodies washed up on a riverbank after they attempted to cross the border from Mexico to the United States together.
Like the children’s illustrations from this week, the graphic photo has been used to highlight the cruel realities that many families are currently facing as they put their lives on the line to seek asylum from the violence and poverty in their home nations.
Trump’s administration has been focused on cracking down on immigration since taking office in 2017. The president has argued — sometimes in hyperbolic terms — that America’s current immigration system poses safety risks and the flow of migrants must be restricted.
However, there has been significant criticism that Trump’s harsh policies are also putting migrants at risk.