Trump's War on Migrant Children
For over 20 years, it was court-approved procedure that children arrested by immigration officials were guaranteed a minimal level of detention rights and care. It took the Trump Administration only a few months to reset that standard to one of cruelty and inhuman treatment.
Allegedly illegal immigrant and refugee children had previously been granted access to certain minimal rights under U.S. law. These included reasonable places for detention, where needed, with supervision, clean conditions, access to food and, most importantly, the right to a bond hearing before an immigration judge. The bond hearing was also supposed to be a reasonable one, with bonds set appropriate to whatever the actual situation was, and with some understand of the nature of the children facing possible detention and deportation.
They were granted these rights soon after the United States government constructed its first ever prison built to house immigrant children, mothers and babies. The idea behind the prison was to provide a special place with a different standard of care for this more vulnerable group of prisoners.
It was built in Laredo, Texas, and was managed by the Corrections Corporation of America under contract from the U.S. Immigrations and Naturalization Service.
Soon after it was built, it was clear the ‘special care’ the new prison’s vulnerable detainees were going to get was inhumane and bordering on evil. That ‘care’ included mandatory strip-searches and body cavity inspections before and after each visit with a lawyer or other legal representative – and, strangely, only before and after legal visits. CCA guards regularly conducted vaginal and anal searches (rapes) of girls 3 and up. There was even a specific case of a girl aged 12 who had to take out the tampon she was using during her very first period, and show it to the guards so they would know no contraband was in her vagina.
Keep in mind that these victims of CCA guard abuse were also already there sometimes as previous child victims of rape and torture. So the strip searches only terrified them further, and with little desire to ask for legal help because of the prison’s own rape that came with the CCA strip searches.
The CCA guards even went so far as conducting mock trials of the unaccompanied children within their walls, further terrorizing and victimizing them further.
For its past actions, CCA has been sued 811 times as a minimum for its mistreatment of prisoners, a num- ber so large as to prove this is far more than a oneoff example of CCA’S criminal nature. 246 of the lawsuits had some sort of civil rights crime included, 48 involved sex and 15 demonstrated violence towards the child prisoners.
Lawyers for the prisoners claim that the conditions in the prisons are horrific and inhuman and cause longterm psychological damage to the children.
All that is behind a court case filed in 1985 on behalf of Jenny Flores, an orphan who had lost her family and all neighbors when U.S. backed Salvadoran army tanks destroyed her village and it burned to ashes, and others in similar dire conditions. It was a classaction case.
In 1997, after many years of fighting that case, multiple courts and finally even the Department of Justice agreed that there must be minimum standards of care for these children in any prison, after the final settlement of the Flores case.
The ruling said that unaccompanied minors entering the US illegally must be placed in the least restrictive setting appropriate to the minor’s age and special needs, and released as quickly as possible.
A civil society does not imprison children except under very extreme and rare circumstances. It certainly doesn't imprison them indefinitely in abusive conditions with no hope of release.
Things are unfortunately worse for this same set of children now, with private prison-management companies like CCA doing their best to skirt the laws, in part by moving the children around so it is hard to track their situation. Private prisons get paid for every prisoner so it is in their best interests to retain every prisoner as long as possible.