‘If we don’t stand up for children, then we don’t stand for much.’

dream-act-nowMarian Wright Edelman’s admonition seems particularly damning when we look at U.S. treatment of immigrant children. Denial of safe haven, overcrowded shelters, prison-like detention, mistreatment, neglect, and death top the stories coming from the southern border.

While today’s post focuses on children, developments in the tariff/border circus continue.

On Friday night, Trump said he had a new deal with Mexico and called off the tariffs.

By Sunday, the New York Times was reporting there was nothing new in the deal: all of the announced provisions had been negotiated months ago.

Trump angrily responded that there were secret parts of the deal that have not yet been revealed.

On Monday, both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times reported that Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said there were no secret deals.

Also on Monday, Vice President Pence told Fox News there was a “safe third country deal” with Guatemala that would be revealed soon.

Then the Washington Post reported AMLO and Ebrard acknowledged there were parts of the deal that had not been disclosed yet.  Vox summarized : 

“The New York Times reported this weekend that Trump dropped the tariffs as part of a bilateral deal with Mexico on immigration (and possibly also agriculture). Essentially, Trump finally agreed to accept commitments that Mexico made late last year, back when Kirstjen Nielsen was still secretary of homeland security.

“As Eliana Johnson and Nancy Cook wrote for Politico, it looks like Trump once again created a crisis and then “cut a vague, imperfect or constitutionally questionable deal at the last minute, claiming victory and savaging the critics.” As they further explained, this pattern of drama followed by climbdown is “getting eerily familiar in Washington.”…

“Now, it’s possible that Trump is telling the truth and his deal with Mexico includes other secret provisions that, if disclosed, would make him look really savvy but are being kept quiet for some unknown reason. Realistically, though, Trump did permanent damage to the US-Mexico trade relationship and accomplished nothing in exchange.”

The political arguments and deal-making do nothing to help the children. As more children cross the border, the U.S. response has been to open more “shelters.” The latest are located on U.S. military bases and and other federal property where state child protection laws cannot be enforced. 

“The new emergency facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, will hold as many as 1,600 teens in a complex that once housed oil field workers on government-leased land near the border, said Mark Weber, a spokesman for Office of Refugee Resettlement.

“The agency is also weighing using Army and Air Force bases in Georgia, Montana and Oklahoma to house an additional 1,400 kids in the coming weeks, amid the influx of children traveling to the U.S. alone. Most of the children crossed the border without their parents, escaping violence and corruption in Central America, and are held in government custody while authorities determine if they can be released to relatives or family friends.

“All the new facilities will be considered temporary emergency shelters, so they won’t be subject to state child welfare licensing requirements, Weber said. In January, the government shut down an unlicensed detention camp in the Texas desert under political pressure, and another unlicensed facility called Homestead remains in operation in the Miami suburbs.”

Children already. in shelter shave minimal education and recreation facilities. Even those are now disappearing. The Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for the “shelters,” said last week that it is running out of money and will no longer fund English classes, art supplies, soccer coaches and other nonessential services for children in custody.”

Soccer may not seem like much, but these children do not have much.

“For many children, the duration of time in government custody has grown increasingly longer, in part due to the new policies that make sponsors leery of coming forward because of concerns that they could become subject to immigration enforcement themselves.

“One of the few regular activities available to children has been playing soccer. And now, that could be disappearing.

“In these centers the only glimmer of hope for these children is that they can play soccer in the evening,” said Linda Rivas, the executive director of the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, Texas. And now that’s gone.” …

This latest action violates the 1997 Flores federal consent decree, which requires school five days a week with classes in math, science, reading, writing, social studies, and physical education, as well as outdoor recreation. When the government publicly flouts the law, what protection do children have? 

Not much, according to Department of Homeland Security. records uncovered by ACLU attorney Mitra Ebadolahi:

“The complaints unearthed by Ebadolahi and her colleagues, though redacted, offer glimpses of troubling patterns of behavior within the ranks. One boy told investigators “that during his apprehension by Border Patrol agents he was hit on the head with a flashlight. … He sustained a laceration to his scalp that required three (3) staples.” The boy’s story was buttressed by the fact that he had three clearly visible staples closing a fresh wound on his head. Other children reported being punched, shocked with Tasers, and denied food and medicine. Many described being bludgeoned with flashlights.

“In one memo, from June 2014, a DHS investigator suggested shutting down an investigation into a minor offense because the department was deluged with a “huge amount of more serious complaints.”

A year after the full heat of the family separation policy, details of abusive conditions continue to surface.  The latest story involves children locked in vans for two nights and. a day.

“Under the blistering Texas sun last July, 37 migrant children boarded vans for what was supposed to be a 30-minute ride. At the end of the road from Harlingen to Los Fresnos lay the promise of hugs, kisses and long overdue reunification with their parents, from whom they were taken when the Trump administration began systematically separating migrant families who crossed the border illegally.

“But when the children, all between 5 and 12 years old, arrived at Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s adults-only Port Isabel Detention Center, rather than seeing their parents, they saw a parking lot full of vans just like theirs, with children from other facilities who, just like them, were waiting to be processed and reunified with their parents.

“It was 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, July 15, 2018.

“Not until 39 hours later — after two nights in a van — did the last child step out of a van to be reunited. Most spent at least 23 hours in the vehicles.”

While those children survived, six children have died in Border Patrol custody, or after being released from custody into hospitals since September. These deaths came after more than a decade, including the surge of unaccompanied children in 2014, with no deaths of children in custody. Doctors report failure to adequately evaluate or treat children with serious medical problems. That includes taking medications from children (and adults) when they are taken into custody, and failure to return or replace essential medications.

“During his most recent visit to the clinic in April, when [Dr. Eric Russel] saw more than 150 migrants, he noted a troubling new trend: a number of people reported that their medication had been taken from them by U.S. border officials….

“For Russell, a pediatric emergency medicine physician, the patient who stood out the most during that visit was a boy of 8 or 9 with a history of seizures. According to his mother, the child had been on a long-term seizure medicine in their home country, but the medication had been taken from him upon entering the Border Patrol custody in McAllen and never returned.” 

Not only medications have been removed. Both adults and children report that immigration officials have seized their identification documents and refused to return them:

“Virginia, an 18-year-old from Guatemala who is seeking asylum in the United States, had just one form of identification on her long journey north: her birth certificate.

“Now, the teenager waits in a shelter in a Mexican border town while her U.S. asylum case is decided – minus the birth certificate.

“Virginia said that when she turned herself in to immigration authorities in El Paso, U.S. officials took the certificate and refused to return it.

“The more I asked the angrier they got,” she said.

Even ICE officials report failures in essential medical care for migrants:

““IHSC [ICE’s Health Services Corps] is severely dysfunctional and unfortunately preventable harm and death to detainees has occurred,” an ICE supervisor notified Matthew Albence, then Acting Deputy Director of ICE, in a memo dated December 3, 2018….

“The memo obtained by TYT, bearing the subject line “Urgent Matter,” was written by a supervisor at ICE’s IHSC. It details over a dozen cases in which ICE allegedly failed to provide its detainees with proper medical care, including two which resulted in fatalities.”

“If we don’t stand up for children, then we don’t stand for much,” Marian Wright Edelman wrote, That inspires a question: who will stand up for the migrant children? Or perhaps a deeper question: How can we stand up for the migrant children? For there is no one but ourselves to combat the evil that harms them and threatens all of us.




About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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