Administration “Loses” Nearly 1,500 Kids

By Michael Derek Roberts

According to reports reaching CARIBBEAN TIMES NEWS about 13,000 immigrant children are now languishing in federal detention centers across the United States – a sharp surge when compared to 2017. These children are the victims of the punitive new “get tough on immigration” program and policies put in place by the Trump Administration. Add to this the fact that the Administration has admitted in late 2017 to “losing” about 1,500 children and the horror story unfolds in chilling detail. Nowadays, this mass detention of children has spawned new language designed to soften the harsh and punitive immigration actions – migrant children facilities are now dubbed “Tender age shelters.”

This state of affairs has been a boon for the prison industry salivating over the billions of dollars that the Trump Administration is spending to house, feed and shelter the children. These private, for profit companies, also run and control many American prison and detention facilities. And its happy days are here again for these companies as the Administration ramps up construction of tent camps and other detention facilities across the country even as immigrant activists worry over the fact that as privately run facilities there are few safeguards, checks and balances, as well as human rights protocols in these places.

What makes this situation particularly pernicious is the fact that the vast majority of these children are fleeing the gravest situations imaginable, literally running for their lives back in their South American countries. In Tornillo, Texas, where one of the largest detention camps is presently located, children live in a space enclosed by a chain link fence that’s topped with barbed wire. This tent city, which crams together so many children, is ill equipped to handle this overcrowded situation. Here’s the context: Tornillo was originally designed to house 450 minors, but the government now plans to lock up close to 3,800 children there.

To be clear: The increase in the number of children now in US detention centers is not due to an influx of more migrant children, but rather because fewer children are being released into the custody of sponsors, family and immigrant organizations. Unaccompanied children have traditionally been placed with sponsors such as parents or extended family members upon entering the U.S. However, a new rule implemented by the Trump administration last June now requires sponsors to be fingerprinted in order to pick up children, and that information is then shared with immigration officials. Many would-be sponsors are undocumented immigrant themselves, and therefore are understandably reluctant to be fingerprinted and risk deportation.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a statement saying that the number of “unaccompanied alien children apprehended are a symptom of the larger problem, namely a broken immigration system,” and that HHS has a rigorous system for vetting sponsors out of concern for children’s safety.

“Because children who enter the country illegally are at high risk for exploitation by traffickers and smugglers, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at HHS’ Administration for Children and Families maintains high standards for vetting children’s sponsors for the safety and well-being of the child,” the statement read. “Demographic and other factors affecting how long children remain in care fluctuate over time, but ORR consistently acts to ensure sponsors are screened appropriately for the protection of children.”

And more embarrassing for the Trump Administration is the fact that it has admitted to losing tract of nearly 1,500 migrant children it had placed into the homes of caregivers. The US Administration has in effect become the “worst foster parents” in the world because it has effectively “lost” this large number of children that it placed with caregivers.

The outcry over the fact that the federal government had lost track of hundreds of vulnerable immigrant children was further compounded by outrage over news that immigration authorities were making good on new Trump administration Executive Orders and directives to prosecute parents caught making unauthorized border crossings with their children, and in so doing separate the kids from their parents.

HERE ARE MORE HARD FACTS:

  • According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of the 13,000 children presently in lock up, just over 3,280 are female unaccompanied minors, and 8,506 are male.
  • The shelters were intended for children under the age of 12, referred to as “tender age” detainees, who are entering the detention system in ever-larger numbers under the Trump administration’s practice of separating children from parents who enter the country illegally.
  • Many are toddlers and babies and require special care, and their numbers have been rising since last month, when the government enforced a “zero tolerance” policy on people crossing the border. Estimates suggest that more than 2,400 children under the age of 12 are now in federal custody, including many who have been separated from their parents. Source: [New York Times report].
  • The Trump administration has been sending babies and preschool children forcibly separated from their parents at the United States-Mexico border to so-called “tender age” shelters in South Texas. Lawyers who have visited the sites describe playrooms full of crying children. The three detention centers—in Combes, Brownsville and Raymondville, Texas—have been repurposed to serve children, according to DHS officials. [Source: Colorlines colorlines.com].

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