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  • The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency told INSIDER that 18 infants under the age of 1 are currently being held in two family detention centers in Texas.
  • The news comes shortly after immigration groups released a letter expressing “grave concerns” about the infants held in the Dilley facility, one of whom was just five months old.
  • The letter also said some of the babies were sick or had lost weight while in custody.
  • ICE said in a statement that the detention centers are all “open environment” facilities, and include “medical care, play rooms, social workers, educational services, and access to legal counsel.”

Detention facilities for immigrant families are currently holding 18 infants under the age of one, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency told INSIDER in a statement on Friday.

Seventeen of the babies are being held in the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas, and one is in the Karnes County Residential Center, the agency said.

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The news comes shortly after immigration groups released a letter expressing “grave concerns” about the infants held in the Dilley facility, one of whom was just five months old.

The ICE statement said the number of infants in the agency’s custody has increased along with the number of migrant families apprehended crossing the US-Mexico border.

“As such, ICE is seeing an uptick in the number of family units with infants at its family residential centers (FRCs),” the statement said.

Read more: Sexual abuse allegations have been a problem in migrant children’s shelters for years. The Trump administration separated thousands of kids from their families and sent them to those shelters anyway.

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ICE added that the detention facilities — there are only three in the entire country that detain migrant families — are all “open environment” facilities, and include “medical care, play rooms, social workers, educational services, and access to legal counsel.”

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The letter, jointly written by the American Immigration Council, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, demanded that the agency immediately release the babies and their mothers, arguing that ICE “repeatedly has demonstrated an inability” to met basic standards of care for children.

The letter also said detained mothers have told their legal advisers that their babies are suffering while being detained, and have even lost weight of become sick in custody.

Other mothers have said the babies aren’t feeding well due to sudden changes in the formula used in the detention facilities, and some have said the infants have shown behavioral or sleep-related problems, according to the letter.

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dilley detention center

“We have grave concerns about the lack of specialized medical care available in Dilley for this vulnerable population,” the letter said. “Medical and mental health experts … have also admonished the detention of young children, even for brief periods of time.”

Government agencies have long been criticized for their handling of migrant children in custody. Earlier this week, Rep. Ted Deutch, of Florida, released documents from the Department of Health and Human Services showing that thousands of migrant children were allegedly sexually abused in government-administered shelters.

The Customs and Border Protection agency also came under heavy criticism late last year, after two young migrant children died in Border Patrol custody.

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