What’s been going on at our border is unconscionable, and the way the whole affair has been managed is making things even worse. This is by no means a comprehensive list of reading material, but these are some items that have really resonated with me over the past several weeks.
Lawfare: Who’s Really Coming Across the U.S. Border
Over the past week, the separation of 2,000 children from their parents along the U.S. border has forced immigration into the national spotlight. President Trump, who initiated the separations and then sought to quash criticism with a muddled executive order, has portrayed the policy as a harsh but necessary measure to stop a wave of migrants “bringing death and destruction” into the United States. At another point, he claimed that migrants want to “pour in and infest our country,” linking those crossing the border to the gang MS-13.
Despite what the president says, the situation at the border is much more nuanced. There’s not a flood of people racing across the border. The majority of migrants aren’t dangerous criminals. Many are women and families—and many are fleeing gang violence rather than seeking to spread that violence farther north.
For the past two years, I’ve worked to document these issues at the Strauss Center for International Security and Law at the University of Texas at Austin, and also in the Beyond the Border column for Lawfare—based in part on my fieldwork from across Mexico. There are few straightforward and easy answers to what often feel like basic questions for Central American migration. So it’s worth taking a step back and asking: who are the people arriving at the border? Why are they coming? And how does the current situation compare to migration in the past?
This is a good starting point to understand current immigration trends, the motivations behind immigration, and a look at the people who are coming over. Our current administration wants a simple narrative that all undocumented immigrants are bad people. The truth is far more nuanced and complex.
LA Times: ‘You Don’t Love Me Anymore?’
He said those days in detention were wrenching. For 25 days, he had no news about his son. He was given a phone number to call, but the calls wouldn’t go through.
He finally connected with Jefferson once he reached Los Angeles by bus in late June.
He learned his son was in New York City at Cayuga Centers, an agency that has housed several hundred kids separated from parents in foster care.
That first phone call quickly went from joyful to unbearable.
“Papa, I thought they killed you,” Jefferson told his father, crying. “You separated from me. You don’t love me anymore?”
“No, my son,” Che Coc told him. “I’m crying for you. I promise, soon you will be with me.”
What’s going on is nothing short of traumatic for families and especially for young children. First time crossing the border without proper documentation is a misdemeanor — up there with such things as disorderly conduct or trespassing. No one in their right mind would condone tearing apart families for a misdemeanor, but we tend to lose our collective minds when the issue is immigration.
ProPublica: Immigrant Youth Shelters: “If You’re a Predator, It’s a Gold Mine”
Using state public records laws, ProPublica has obtained police reports and call logs concerning more than 70 of the approximately 100 immigrant youth shelters run by the U.S. Health and Human Services department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement. While not a comprehensive assessment of the conditions at these shelters, the records challenge the Trump administration’s assertion that the shelters are safe havens for children. The reports document hundreds of allegations of sexual offenses, fights and missing children.
The recently discontinued practice of separating children from their parents has thrust the youth shelters into the national spotlight. But, with little public scrutiny, they have long cared for thousands of immigrant children, most of them teenagers, although last year 17 percent were under 13. On any given day, the shelters in 17 states across the country house around 10,000 adolescents.
The more than 1,000 pages of police reports and logs detail incidents dating back to the surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America in 2014 during the Obama administration. But immigrant advocates, psychologists and officials who formerly oversaw the shelters say the Trump administration’s harsh new policies have only increased pressures on the facilities, which often are hard-pressed to provide adequate staffing for kids who suffer from untold traumas and who now exist in a legal limbo that could shape the rest of their lives.
“If you’re a predator, it’s a gold mine,” said Lisa Fortuna, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Boston Medical Center. “You have full access and then you have kids that have already had this history of being victimized.”
Again, you cannot look at this situation and think it is remotely OK. Think of it like this, what if 70% of all elementary schools in the US had as many police reports in as short of a time period? Wouldn’t we be clamoring for better protections for our children? Wouldn’t we want the people overseeing such a child-hostile climate held accountable? Of course we would, but we repeatedly lose our moral compass when the topic is immigration.
The Nation: A 6-Year-Old Girl Was Sexually Abused in an Immigrant-Detention Center
A Southwest Key Programs document obtained by The Nation confirms that D.L. was reported to have been sexually abused on June 4, 2018. On June 12, one day after D.L.’s father was contacted, the 6-year-old girl was presented with the form stating that, as part of the facility’s intervention protocol, she had been instructed to “maintain my distance from the other youth involved” and had been provided “psychoeducation,” described in the document as “reporting abuse” and “good touch bad touch.” The form, posted below, shows D.L’s “signature”—a single letter “D,” next to the characterization of her as “tender age”—which supposedly confirms that D.L understands “that it is my responsibility to follow the safety plan” reviewed with her.
When D.L.’s mother learned about the incident, she was still being detained in Texas and felt devastated. “I felt really horrible. I couldn’t do anything for her, because we were separated,” she said through a translator in an interview with The Nation. “It was a nightmare. When my husband told me what happened, I felt helpless. She was so little, she was probably so scared, probably afraid to say anything to anyone. It was a total nightmare for me.”
But the nightmare wasn’t over. On June 22, Southwest Key again contacted D.L.’s father and informed him that the same boy initially cited for abuse had hit and fondled D.L. again. According to Lane, D.L.’s father asked how the facility could allow this to happen, and the woman on the phone responded that she was only calling him to advise him that it had happened, that she didn’t have permission to say anything else, and he would have to speak with the director.
If large statistics don’t connect with you, then perhaps a single account will. A young girl was molested and then told it was her responsibility to stay away from her abuser. So now we can add victim-blaming to the list of traumas these children must endure. In this case, the abuse came from another detainee instead of an employee, but this fact remains: she would not have even been in this position without the heartless policies our current administration enacted.