The number of detained migrant children in the United States has increased more than fivefold since last year, and their plight in this country is not getting any better. In recent weeks, hundreds have been transferred to a tent city in the South Texas desert with little access to legal representation and no required education.
The New York Times reports that up to this point, undocumented children being detained by federal immigration authorities were housed in private foster homes or shelters where they slept two or three to a room, received formal schooling, and had regular visits with the legal representatives assigned to their cases. The shelters and homes were licensed and monitored by state child welfare authorities with strict rules and requirements for safety and education, as well as staff hiring and training.
Their new reality is a tent city in Tornillo, Tex., that is unregulated, short of guidelines set by the Department of Health and Human Services—and does not list education or schooling as a requirement for the children being detained there.
It is yet another horror in the already terrifying story emerging about the conditions for the children who were either separated from their parents at the border as part of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy, crossed the border alone illegally or crossed the border alone seeking asylum.
Some other noteworthy bits of information from the Times report include:
- The Texas tent city shelter is meant to be a temporary holding place for mainly older children aged 13 to 17 who are close to being placed with sponsors, but because sponsor placements can sometimes take a long time, immigrant advocates are concerned that many of the children could be there for months.
- The children are being moved in the middle of the night with little warning, because authorities are afraid they will attempt to run otherwise.
- Since last year, the average amount of time a migrant child spends in custody nearly doubled from 34 days to 59
- A great many sponsors for the children have been undocumented themselves, and the prospect of stepping forward to help migrant children became an even bigger risk to their own ability to remain in the country in June when federal authorities made it a requirement that all potential sponsors and the adult members of their household would have to submit fingerprints as part of the process. Those fingerprints would be shared with immigration authorities.
The Times notes that the longer a child is detained, the more likely they are to become anxious or depressed.
This situation is made worse at a tent city like Tornillo where the signs that a child is struggling are more likely to be overlooked simply because of the number of children present.
Basically, they are being herded like cattle, stripped of their humanity, and emotionally and developmentally ignored.
Good job, America. Good job.