The Danger of Housing Immigrant Children, and Separating Them From their Parents

By Luis Carrillo

August 21, 2018

Political battles often impact the most vulnerable; for proof, we need look no further than the children being separated from their parents at our nation’s southern border.

The racist Trump “Regime” enforced a cruel policy of separating children from their parents when they crossed the border if they were deemed “undocumented.” Thousands of children have been separated from their parents for months and subjected to horrific treatment at the hands of those charged with their oversight, some children have been sexually abused.

On August 3, 2018 the New York Times reported: https://www.nytimes.com/es/2018/08/07/abuso-sexual-migrantes-refugios/

Two youth care workers at Arizona shelters for migrant children have been charged with sexually assaulting immigrant teenagers, according to court records. They are the latest claims of abuse at government-contracted shelters that have a key role in the Trump administration’s hard-line immigration crackdown. On Tuesday, the police in Phoenix arrested Fernando Magaz Negrete, 32, on charges of sexual abuse and child molestation after he was seen kissing and fondling a 14-year-old girl in June, the authorities said. That arrest came a day after federal prosecutors detailed their case against another youth worker, Levian D. Pacheco, 25, who is H.I.V. positive and is accused of groping six teenage boys and performing oral sex on two others at a detention center from late August 2016 through July 2017. While the men worked at separate facilities, both centers are operated by Southwest Key Programs, a Texas nonprofit that has received at least $955 million in federal contracts since 2015 to provide shelters and other services to immigrant children in federal custody. The contractor is one of the largest operators in the highly secretive, billion-dollar business of housing, transporting and watching over migrant children in federal custody on the southern border. President Trump’s policies on immigration, including the administration’s now-defunct family separation policy, have provided a financial boon to contractors like Southwest Key Programs. The contractors have also come under increased scrutiny for their treatment of immigrants, prompting a top government official on Tuesday to defend the detention centers for families as “more like a summer camp.

There are other reports documenting how most of the kids separated from their families have felt loneliness, abandonment, and emotional trauma. Worse, this was only the beginning of their suffering. Stories of sexual abuse, mistreatment such as forced labor, medicating the children with strong drugs, and ice cold housing units, are rampant, and not just at one facility, but at various facilities throughout this country.

In Chicago, a child who was separated from his mother for months discussed with the media how the kids there had to clean toilets without gloves and how some where given injections so that they went to sleep at night. In Houston, a center that once came under fire for hiring counselors who sexually abused their patients is now acting as a detention center for children separated at the border. In another report, Chicago again was highlighted as a hub where the federal government sends these children. A non-profit called Heartland Human Care Services has taken in dozens of children taken from their parents, and stories of inappropriate relationships between staff and minors has been reported. At a time when these young people feel alone, deserted and vulnerable, predators take advantage of these kids.

It’s disgusting to see, but it’s even more disgusting that these reports come out on a weekly, sometimes even daily basis. Let us not forget that the racist Trump “Regime” created this problem. The lack of foresight in ripping children away from their parents and putting them in government care is reprehensible.

On August 1, 2018 Reuters reported: A senior official at the U.S. agency charged with caring for migrant children believed separating them from their parents carried “significant risk” of harm and said on Tuesday concerns had been raised internally before the Trump administration made it official policy. Jonathan White, a senior U.S. Public Health Service official, told Congress that the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), where he worked until March 2018, had “raised a number of concerns” about the proposed policy in the year preceding its implementation. Some 2,500 children were separated from their parents as part of President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy toward illegal immigration. Many of them had crossed the U.S.-Mexican border illegally, while others had sought asylum. The separations were in place from early May until Trump stopped the practice last month in the face of intense global criticism. “We raised a number of concerns in the ORR program about any policy which would result in family separation due to concerns we had about the best interest of the child,” White told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that is looking into how the policy evolved

The racist Trump “Regime” ignored these warnings of separating them from their parents carried a “significant risk” of harm to the children.

These children, documented or not, have rights under the Constitution of the United States. However, like many Latinos throughout the country, the language barrier, the dark skin and even just the accent make them easy targets for being treated inhumanely. Our firm represents countless Latino clients, as we have done for decades, and we have seen abuse by school districts, police officers and other government entities seemingly empowered to abuse this segment of the population.

While any of this treatment is unacceptable, seeing children fall prey to sexual abuse because the racist Trump “Regime” believes they are an easy target of Trump’s political posturing is simply outrageous. Those two perverts in Arizona deserve justice for what they’ve done to these minors, but those responsible for enabling these perverts are just as guilty.

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