Las Vegas Review-Journal

Horrific atrocities at the border

Desperate migrant children face predators on both sides

- RUBEN NAVARRETTE Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavar­rette.com. His podcast, “Ruben in the Center,” is available through every podcast app.

WITH more than 20,000 unaccompan­ied minors in the custody of U.S. officials — both at the border and in holding areas throughout the Southwest — what was already a crisis may now be a crime scene.

There are serious allegation­s that some of the children being held at detention facilities have been sexually assaulted.

Let the horror sink in. Here you have thousands of children who fled cutthroat countries in Central America where ruthless gangs use threats of rape to terrorize people. They traveled more than 1,000 miles to the United States seeking a safe haven. Instead, they’re allegedly crammed into detention facilities with insufficie­nt food or water but plenty of exposure to COVID-19. And, then, they’re just vulnerable enough to be at risk of being sexually assaulted by predators.

We don’t yet know if these allegation­s are true, but I have no doubt that they are. There are disgusting creeps on both sides of the U.s.-mexico border.

Just who is alleged to have committed these atrocities is also not yet clear. It could be anyone.

Either way, Uncle Sam would be on the hook. That’s because the second that immigratio­n officials took custody of these migrant children, the U.S. government became their de-facto legal guardian. Uncle Sam is responsibl­e for their well-being. It’s up to him to keep these children safe, protected and cared for until officials can decide what to do with them.

The ghastly possibilit­y that children who are detained in U.S. custody have been sexually assaulted will shock absolutely no one who covered the border crisis in 2014 that entangled President Barack Obama or the one in 2018 that confounded President Donald Trump. Both times, there were many such allegation­s of children being sexually assaulted. We have been here before,

The ghastly possibilit­y that children who are detained in U.S. custody have been sexually assaulted will shock absolutely no one who covered the border crisis in 2014 or the one in 2018.

and we will likely be here again.

Yet, these allegation­s are also a reminder that, of all the options available to the bumbling Biden administra­tion about how to handle unaccompan­ied minors who cross the U.s.-mexico border — and this administra­tion has tried plenty of them — the absolute worst option of all is to warehouse these children in U.S. custody for longer than the 72 hours allowed by law.

Officials should quickly process these children, put ankle bracelets on them and hand them over to the adult guardians who were supposed to take custody on this side of the border.

After all, for a child, languishin­g in the custody of U.S. officials can be dangerous. The longer this goes on, the greater the odds that bad things happen.

One person who wants to get to the bottom of what happened — albeit solely for political reasons

— is Texas Gov. Greg Abbott. The Republican has standing in the matter because some of the alleged attacks took place at the Freeman Coliseum facility in San Antonio, which now houses more than 1,300 migrant children. Abbott claims that — in addition to allegation­s of sexual assault — his office has received complaints alleging at least three other forms of child abuse: an insufficie­nt number of staffers to care for children, children not eating and a failure to keep children who test positive for COVID-19 away from other children. The governor wants the facility closed, and he has ordered the Texas Rangers to investigat­e the abuse allegation­s.

Now we’re talking. Good on Abbott. Of course, he was silent back in 2018 when similar allegation­s arose during the Trump years. Of course, he is a hypocrite and a hack. But given how corrupt our political system is with everyone so eager to cover up for the captains of their respective teams, Abbott may also be these kids’ only hope of getting justice, getting help and getting to safety.

If Democrats object to Abbott taking the lead on this issue, they are free to join the fight and defend these kids on their own. If they’re not prepared to do that because they don’t want to embarrass or get sideways with a Democratic administra­tion and a Democratic president, that’s on them.

Democrats need to put up or shut up. Given how badly they performed the last time they were in this kind of tight spot — during the 2014 crisis, under Obama — I’d prefer the latter.

 ?? Dario Lopez-mills The Associated Press ?? Minors inside a pod at the Donna Department of Homeland Security holding facility, the main detention center for unaccompan­ied children in the Rio Grande Valley run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in Donna, Texas.
Dario Lopez-mills The Associated Press Minors inside a pod at the Donna Department of Homeland Security holding facility, the main detention center for unaccompan­ied children in the Rio Grande Valley run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in Donna, Texas.
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