Jan 14, 2020
Phoenix New Times – The young family from Mexico sat on the wooden benches of the Tucson migrant shelter, cups of chicken soup in hand, as Dr. Timothy Domer ran down the list of questions.
They had spent nine months waiting at the border and several days in Border Patrol detention before being transferred to the Casa Alitas shelter by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The family members wore a somewhat bewildered look as a flurry of doctors greeted other families with gusto and the same questionnaire.
Dr. Domer found that the family of the five reported no dizziness, no fevers, and no pregnancies.
But then he asked: “Are any of you experiencing any abdominal pain?”
The mother and daughter pointed to Javier, who was 9 and looking slightly pale, clutching his soup.
“He ate the burrito,” his mother said through a Spanish-English translator.
The experience observed by Phoenix New Times was reportedly a typical scene at the shelter.
Doctors treating migrants after their release from Border Patrol custody say that a disproportionate number of their patients feel ill after eating the food the federal agency gives them — namely, a certain packaged burrito.
“I would say within every family there’s at least one person who either says they feel sick after eating the burrito, or they couldn’t eat because the food’s so bad,” said Domer, a geriatrician who sees asylum-seekers weekly at Casa Alitas. “If I had to put a percentage on everybody that we see, it would probably be greater than 50 percent.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees U.S. Border Patrol, said it’s investigating the situation following Phoenix New Times’ report of these concerns.
“We want to take care of people,” said Meredith Mingledorff, spokesperson for CBP. ”We always want people who experience inappropriate behavior from our personnel to address it, and we take every allegation seriously.”
Casa Alitas, a short-term shelter for asylum-seekers run by Catholic Charities in Tucson, has served hundreds of families seeking asylum in the last year.
Through an agreement with the federal government, the shelter receives migrants directly from immigration enforcement … Read more.