As more children are reunited with their parents, a clearer picture of the physical and psychological damage of their confinement in prison-like shelters emerges. Children were ordered not to touch one another—no hugging, not by friends, not even by brothers and sisters. A second-grade girl reports separation of girls and boys and punishment “if we went near each other;” Another girl says ““They told us to behave, or we’d be there forever.” At least two children reported seeing “a troubled 5-year-old boy repeatedly injected with something that made him fall asleep at his desk.”
“Do not misbehave. Do not sit on the floor. Do not share your food. Do not use nicknames. Also, it is best not to cry. Doing so might hurt your case.
“Lights out by 9 p.m. and lights on at dawn, after which make your bed according to the step-by-step instructions posted on the wall. Wash and mop the bathroom, scrubbing the sinks and toilets. Then it is time to form a line for the walk to breakfast.”
Mothers imprisoned in an isolated detention center in Port Isabel, Texas have staged hunger strikes to protest continuing separation from their children and conditions that produce “a constant state of grief and anxiety, some displaying symptoms of post-traumatic-stress disorder.” In a detention center in Georgia, a man in deportation proceedings killed himself on July 10, the eighth ICE detainee to die in custody in FY 2018.
The judge who ordered the children reunited with their parents is losing patience with government equivocation and excuses. Judge Dana Sabraw wrote on Friday that HHS “either does not understand the court’s orders or is acting in defiance of them.” He ordered the government to provide a complete list of names of all children by Monday, and to complete background checks of all parents by Thursday.
What can the judge do if HHS or DHS fails to comply with his order? The Arizona Republic consulted legal experts who said he could hold officials in contempt of court, order jail time, or impose fines—and that none of these options may work, and any of them might be overturned on appeal. Holding recalcitrant officials up to public shaming might be the most effective strategy—but it’s unclear whether they have any shame.
Also unclear: Whether the children and parents will be released on bond or with ankle monitors, or whether they will all be held together in immigration detention centers. Some of the reunited families are still in detention centers, and others have been released to sponsors or with ankle monitors.
Beyond the plight of children with parents in U.S. immigration jails: There is no legal structure in place to return children to parents who have already been deported, although Judge Sabraw has ordered the children returned.
Nor is there any legal structure that can prevent the looming separation of 273,000 U.S. citizen children from parents whose Temporary Protected Status has been ended by the Trump regime. And ICE continues to arrest any undocumented immigrants it can locate in the interior of the United States, without regard for length of time in the United States, family ties, and contributions to their communities. These arrests also lead to separation of parents from U.S. citizen children, spouses, and other family members.
Reiterating the racist underpinnings of his administration’s anti-immigrant policies during his trip to Europe, Trump told a British newspaper that immigrants were “changing the culture” of Europe, and that was “very, very sad.” His remarks came a few days before 15 first and second-generation African immigrants led France’s soccer team to a World Cup victory, including “dynamic 19-year-old forward Kylian Mbappe, who is descended from an Algerian mother and Cameroonian father.”