In this blog post we continue the conversation of immigration, detention centers, and the US immigration law/system.
Last week, we highlighted three stories of trans women who migrated to the U.S.
Unfortunately, all three experience some sort of traumatic experience and two died in US immigration detention centers.
This week I want to highlight the children who were separated from their parents, and speak about children and the immigration system overall.
2018 policy - separating families
In 2018, Jeff Session announced a “zero tolerance” policy which was the catalyst in family separation at the border. According to Licona and Luibheid, between Oct 2017- May 2018, there were atleast 2,700 children that were separated from their family at the border (45). Due to this policy family separation at the border began to occur.
What happened to these children that were separated from their family?
When these children were separated from their parents, some were handcuffed, and others were hit, kicked, manhandled, and/or cursed by CBP/ ICE officials, according to Jane Juffer's reporting.
IN DETENTION CENTERS
Once they are detained they are taken to detention centers and according to Appleseed's reporting, the individuals who are in these centers describe the place as "jail-like," "ice-boxes," and a space where they have no agency.
THEY ARE CAGED UP.
These children are afraid to speak out.
They feel as if they are in prisons and jails, which technically they are since they are treated like criminals.
Appleseed mentions that these detention centers usually have no beds, no pillows, fresh clothes, and they also do not have blankets. We all have seen the pictures of children being covered with foil-like blankets. This is cruel and it just shows how dehumanizing and unfair they treat individuals being detained at detention centers, and to emphasize how they treat children.
Appleseed perfectly puts it in this excerpt, "in all cases, nothing in the physical environment is designed to provide a sense of warmth and comfort for the children. Everything about this experience tells these unaccompanied children that they are in a dentition center run by a powerful U.S. law enforcement agency and that the alternative to reparation is to be "locked up" in the U.S." (Juffer 108).
At the courts
The immigration system is very unfair, and one of the reasons why is because these individuals are not given the right to an attorney; therefore, they have to look for their own attorney if they have the funds for it.
Imagine children trying to find lawyers... how is that possible?
How would they have the ability to find a lawyer or even defend themselves in the court?
This question really haunts me and gets to me. How is it ethical/ okay for the immigration system to allow children to defend themselves? Imagine a four-year-old child trying to explain why they should stay in the US? They wouldn't be able to articulate like adults (and no I am not saying that children are capable of this because some are, but we have to think of how all this process is a big change/traumatic experience for them).
I just cannot wrap my head around the fact that a judge is willing to allow a child to defend themselves in court.
The death of children in detention centers
According to Nicole Acevedo from NBC news, in 2018-2019 at least seven children died in US detention facilities.
There was one graphic video that was public shared in social medias about a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy named Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez. Carlos was fighting the flu and he was found dead on May 20th, 2019 hour after he passed away.
The LOST/MISSING CHILDREN
According to the New York Times, in 2018 1,500+ children were placed with sponsors after they were released from federal shelters. When the Department of Health and Human Services did a follow-up call, they could not find the whereabouts of "1,488 out of 11,254 children the agency had placed with sponsors in 2018, based on follow-up calls from April 1 to June 30."
WHERE ARE THESE CHILDREN AND WHY ARE WE NOT TALKING ABOUT THIS?
Jane Juffer (2016), “Can the Children Speak? Precarious Lives at the U.S.-Mexico Border”
Acevedo, Nicole (2019) “Why are migrant children dying in U.S. custody?” NBC News.
“Family separation at US border plagued by problems, watchdog finds” (March 2020) The Guardian.
Licona and Luibheid (2018). The regime of separating families and caging children