Trump's War on Mi­grant Chil­dren

Traveling Minds - - Table Of Contents -

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.

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