Where Are The Children? In Overcrowded Holding Cells

We will not stop reporting on this story until this inhumane policy ends
A group of children hold up signs during a demonstration in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices, Friday, June 1, 2018, in Miramar, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

A group of children hold up signs during a demonstration in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices, Friday, June 1, 2018, in Miramar, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Updated June 15, 2018

Before we dive into what we’ve learned about the detention centers immigrant children are being held in, let’s make one thing clear: The inhumane policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border (who are systematically prosecuted) is a Trump administration policy, not Democratic legislation. The prosecution of all undocumented immigrants at the southern border is creating this systematic family separation. The President could end this right now, but instead, he is lying about who is responsible for it.

Now, let’s begin. NBC News reported that the U.S. is running out of room to house the children who are being separated from their parents at the border, and they are being placed into holding cells that don’t have adequate medical resources:

Border agents and child welfare workers are running out of space to shelter children who have been separated from their parents at the U.S. border as part of the Trump administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy, according to two U.S. officials and a document obtained by NBC News.

As of Sunday, nearly 300 of the 550 children currently in custody at U.S. border stations had spent more than 72 hours there, the time limit for immigrants of any age to be held in the government’s temporary facilities. Almost half of those 300 children are younger than 12, according to the document, meaning they are classified by the Department of Homeland Security as “tender age children.”

The report goes on to say:

The overstays at border stations are a result of a backlog at U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS), the agency responsible for sheltering migrant children longer term and matching them with relatives or foster parents in the U.S. The agency’s Administration for Children and Families has 11,200 unaccompanied children in its care and takes 45 days on average to place a child with a sponsor, according to a spokesperson.

And MSNBC’s Jacob Soboroff gave us some of the first glimpses into where some of the children who leave the initial holding sells are placed once they make it to a shelter. It’s complete with an eerie mural of President Trump.

There are reports of children as young as 53 weeks old being taken. Once the kids are placed with sponsors, they are sometimes moved to different states, leaving the parents in the dark about their whereabouts.

The administration implemented this policy as a deterrent. On May 7, Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued an order, which DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen implemented, that requires all undocumented immigrants crossing the border be referred for criminal prosecution…including migrants seeking asylum from violence.

The move would also mean that even if immigrants caught at the border illegally have valid asylum claims, they could still end up with federal criminal convictions on their record regardless of whether a judge eventually finds they have a right to live and stay in the US.

Many of these migrants are asylum seekers, fleeing violence and cruelty from Central America only to be welcomed by more cruelty from the country that has “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” enshrined on its Statue of Liberty. NBC News reported:

From October 2017 to mid-April, before the new prosecution strategy officially went into effect, more than 700 children were reportedly separated from their parents at the border.

Since then, according to Department of Homeland Security numbers obtained by the Associated Press, it appears there have been at least 2,000 additional children since then, between mid-April and the end of May.

The figures show that 1,995 minors were separated from 1,940 adults from April 19 through May 31. The separations were not broken down by age, and included separations for illegal entry, immigration violations, or possible criminal conduct by the adult.

Those numbers don’t include June…

There are reports of babies at the breastfeeding age being ripped from their mother’s arms…

And children not being reunited with their deported parents.

While President Trump was abroad cozying up to human rights violator Dictator Kim Jong-un, here at home Americans were reacting to the news of Attorney General Jeff Sessions ending protections for asylum seekers fleeing domestic violence and gang violence. This news came as a flood of reports continued to detail the horrific policy of immigrant children being separated from their parents at America’s southern border – including a Washington Post story detailing a Honduran father killing himself after his child was taken from him.

In spite of the fact this is his administration’s policy, President Trump continues to falsely blame Democrats.

While Trump tries to cast blame on them, Democrats are trying to expose this horrific policy. Senator Merkley (D-OR), who wasn’t allowed to enter a Texas detention facility and had the police called on him, spoke about what he witnessed.

Now they’re trying to cite the bible as justification…

The United Nations has condemned this as an illegal human rights violation.

This policy doesn’t exist in a vacuum; it comes from a President who has made the dehumanization of Latino immigrants central to his political platform. Last month, President Trump said of unaccompanied minors who are crossing the border: “They look so innocent. They’re not innocent.” Trump said this in spite of the fact that only 56 out of 250,000 unaccompanied minors apprehended by border patrol were suspected or confirmed to have gang ties.

Also last month, President Trump once again conflated MS-13 with Latino immigrants, calling them “animals.” This fear-mongering rhetoric goes back years. But as we can see, this dehumanization has moved far beyond rhetoric and has gone even further than the inhumane ICE raids we’ve seen.

The pressure seems to be mounting on members of Congress.

But, President Trump is trying to hold the children hostage to push for a bill he would favor.

Imagine for a moment you are a young immigrant mother fleeing Guatemala. As you join a caravan of asylum seekers heading towards the United States, you begin to hear about the President of the United States tweeting negative things about your initiative. You keep marching onward. You then hear the President call you an animal. You keep marching onward because you and your child’s safety are too important. You finally arrive at the border, and rather than being welcomed and treated with dignity, your child is ripped from your arms without explanation and you are put in shackles.

And if you put yourself in the child’s shoes, you are put into a detention facility and then flown to a different state, still with no explanation as to what is happening to your parent.

This is not America.

American history is peppered with moments that test the moral core of our collective humanity. Moments where there is a clear distinction between right and wrong. Moments that present stark choices between decency and depravity. Human rights and oppression. Truth and deceit.

Freedom defeated bondage in the Civil War. Democracy defeated genocidal fascism in World War II. And Civil Rights defeated “Jim Crow” in the 60s. (Although remnants of each of these still exist today.)

All of us have read about these moments. Some of us have even lived through them. I’m 25, so when reading American history I’ve always wondered, what would I do in one of these paradigm-shifting historical moments?

You, reading this right now, are living through one of those important moments in history.

America has done unconscionable things in the past from slavery to Japanese internment camps to unjustified wars, but we must learn from that historical indecency, not embrace it.

As I’ve said before, the beauty of America is that despite who we were in the past or who we are today, we as a people have the power to choose who we will be tomorrow.

We will not stop reporting on this story until this inhumane policy ends.

News // Donald Trump / Government / Immigration / Justice