We all know what’s going on inside the border detention facilities that house migrant children. What the U.S. government is inflicting upon them has been laid bare – much like the concrete floors they’re sleeping on – with stark, gut-wrenching clarity. There are no finer points to this debate anymore. You’re either for or against the abuse of children. Where do you stand?
Recent reports from lawyers and doctors that inspect facilities where unaccompanied minors are being held revealed horrific conditions. It was noted that many children had not bathed since they’d arrived – some nearly a month ago – and had clothes encrusted with bodily fluids like urine and breast milk (some detained children are teenage mothers). Personal hygiene items like soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste were not available, and lights were kept on 24/7 making sleep more difficult than it already was when trying to keep warm on a cold concrete floor with one blanket. Overcrowding and lack of medical care contributed to a serious flu and lice outbreak. And children ranging in ages from infant to 17 years received the same food – none of which included fruits or vegetables – that neglected age-appropriate nutritional needs.
It was also found that many children had not had any contact with their family. Not a single phone call. Children are being forced to navigate the mental anguish of being separated from their parents/carers while also enduring the emotional trauma of not receiving love and comfort from interactions with those that are familiar to them.
Last week I was in Clint, and the conditions we found were appalling. In 12 years representing immigrant children in detention, I have never seen such degradation and inhumanity. Children were dirty, they were scared, and they were hungry. | Elora Mukherjee, Director of Immigrant Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School
Since 1997 there have been a set of nationwide standards (the Flores Agreement) that require facilities for the detention and release of unaccompanied minors to be “safe and sanitary”. It also states that detained minors are to be treated with dignity and respect and shown special concern for their particular vulnerabilities as minors. None of the conditions found by the inspectors, in my opinion, met these standards. None. I’m no longer interested in discussing semantics over action – the time for debating this issue is over.
Here’s how we can help:
Contact your Representatives and Senators to demand further/increased inspections to be carried out under the Flores Agreement. Demand an investigation into the horrific, abusive conditions overseen at these facilities and fire those responsible for allowing it to happen. Demand that Congress order U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to end family separation – which has continued despite the rollback of this policy. Demand that families are housed together in smaller, community-based facilities that provide access to social workers, immigration lawyers, medical care, etc – and that funding is found for it. Demand that detained minor’s rights protections be made into law, including strictly adhered to limits on time spent in federal custody. Demand whatever you think is important – but just do it.
Financial donations don’t have to be large or continuous, but if you can give something, find places that provide legal support, advocate for humane treatment and fight for immigration rights and reform like RAICES, a Texas-based nonprofit or Border Angels, a volunteer-run nonprofit.
If you’re a frequent flyer and have unused airline miles you can donate them so that immigration lawyers can travel to and from the border to provide their legal services.
You can also share information/useful posts across your social media that help other people find ways to volunteer, or support local events, etc. Use whatever privileges you have to push for change – and always, always humanize the people behind the headlines. Share their names, share their stories, and don’t let yourself get distracted.
If you’ve got any other ideas on how to help, leave a comment.
Damage Of Separating Families: The Psychological Effects On Children (Psychology Today)