If your stomach still churning from the past week’s roller coaster deportation drama, @Jonathan Blitzer tweeted a quick timeline to bring you up to date (below). An even bigger drama is unfolding on the border, as a few lawyers and advocates report from overcrowded, filthy camps crammed with migrant children: camps so unsanitary that armed border guards wear face masks to protect their own health. In a Ninth Circuit federal court hearing, a Justice Department lawyer argued that detained children do not need toothbrushes or soap. Republicans say that Congress should give more money to DHS and HHS and then the camp conditions will improve. Congressmembers Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib say that giving more money to the people running the camps is no solution at all.
Concentration Camps on the Border
The Department of Homeland Security’s own Inspector General reported earlier this month on the horrific conditions for adult detainees, including spoiled food, mold, unsanitary conditions, and crowding so severe that cells were described as “standing room only,” with some detainees standing on toilet seats because there was no other space. Now a team of lawyers and law professors who visited children’s detention facilities is speaking out on their findings. HuffPost reports:
“The children, all under age 3 with teenage mothers or guardians, were feverish, coughing, vomiting and had diarrhea, immigration attorneys told HuffPost on Friday. Some of the toddlers and infants were refusing to eat or drink. One 2-year-old’s eyes were rolled back in her head, and she was “completely unresponsive” and limp, according to Toby Gialluca, a Florida-based attorney….
“It’s intentional disregard for the well-being of children,” Gialluca said. “The guards continue to dehumanize these people and treat them worse than we would treat animals.”
The New York Times reported:
“A chaotic scene of sickness and filth is unfolding in an overcrowded border station in Clint, Tex., where hundreds of young people who have recently crossed the border are being held, according to lawyers who visited the facility this week. Some of the children have been there for nearly a month.
“Children as young as 7 and 8, many of them wearing clothes caked with snot and tears, are caring for infants they’ve just met, the lawyers said. Toddlers without diapers are relieving themselves in their pants. Teenage mothers are wearing clothes stained with breast milk.
“Most of the young detainees have not been able to shower or wash their clothes since they arrived at the facility, those who visited said. They have no access to toothbrushes, toothpaste or soap….
“The reports of unsafe and unsanitary conditions at Clint and elsewhere came days after government lawyers in court argued that they should not have to provide soap or toothbrushes to children …
“Ms. Mukherjee said children were being overseen by guards for Customs and Border Protection, which declined to comment for this story. She and her colleagues observed the guards wearing full uniforms — including weapons — as well as face masks to protect themselves from the unsanitary conditions.”
And in the New Yorker:
“Children described to us that they’ve been there for three weeks or longer. And so, immediately from that population that we were trying to triage, they were filthy dirty, there was mucus on their shirts, the shirts were dirty. We saw breast milk on the shirts. There was food on the shirts, and the pants as well. They told us that they were hungry. They told us that some of them had not showered or had not showered until the day or two days before we arrived. Many of them described that they only brushed their teeth once. This facility knew last week that we were coming. The government knew three weeks ago that we were coming….
“This is important. So, on Wednesday, we received reports from children of a lice outbreak in one of the cells where there were about twenty-five children, and what they told us is that six of the children were found to have lice. And so they were given a lice shampoo, and the other children were given two combs and told to share those two combs, two lice combs, and brush their hair with the same combs, which is something you never do with a lice outbreak. And then what happened was one of the combs was lost, and Border Patrol agents got so mad that they took away the children’s blankets and mats. They weren’t allowed to sleep on the beds, and they had to sleep on the floor on Wednesday night as punishment for losing the comb. So you had a whole cell full of kids who had beds and mats at one point, not for everybody but for most of them, who were forced to sleep on the cement….
Here’s a short summary from @Jonathan Blitzer:
“For those scoring at home, here’s the plot arc of the ICE enforcement operation slated to start this weekend: (i) The President preempts the operation by announcing on Twitter that there will be one, thereby surprising ICE officials & forcing them to scramble. 1/
“(ii) hasty preparations are made & ICE officers are annoyed & frustrated that Trump has exposed them. Some voice concerns abtt their own safety in carrying out the operation given how Trump has made their plans public. 2/
“Others worry that the more targeted operation they’re trying to plan will fall short of Trump’s announcement that “millions” will be arrested. (iii) The Admin calls off the operation because of all the chaos and uncertainty. 3/
“(iv) Then, members of Trump Admin insinuate that the head of DHS leaked details of impending raids to the press in order to hobble their execution, even though the WH actively kept him out of the loop on its preparations and messaging around them. (v) Prez blames the Dems. end/”
Emergency Supplemental Appropriation
Democratic leadership in the Senate has agreed to sign off on $4.5 billion in “emergency supplemental” funding for the Department of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services. They seem convinced by the argument that more money for more detention beds will help the children and families now suffering inhumane detention. The bill may come to the Senate floor this week. Will other Senate Democrats fall in line and support the leadership?
Even if they do, the bill faces a less-receptive House of Representatives. Congressmembers Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib issued a press release urging a vote against the emergency border supplemental bill or any other funding for ICE and CBP::
“It is absolutely unconscionable to even consider giving one more dollar to support this President’s deportation force that openly commits human rights abuses and refuses to be held accountable to the American people.
“That is why in good conscience, we cannot support this supplemental funding bill, which gives even more money to ICE and CBP and continues to support a fundamentally cruel and broken immigration system.”
The Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for the “shelters,” said 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.”
So here’s the question: is it better to vote for more money, in order to relieve overcrowding and provide funding to care for detainees? Or is it better to deny increased funding, demanding that ICE and CBP quickly process and release people on bond?
One of the oversight team of attorneys visiting the child detention center in Clint, Texas said money isn’t the problem:
“Gialluca says border officials shouldn’t need more resources to treat immigrants like human beings.
“Money isn’t keeping guards from allowing people to access toilets,” she said. “Money isn’t causing guards to take clothing and medicine away from children.”