by Jake Johnson
With detention facilities overflowing due to President Donald Trump’s monstrous immigration policies—which have sent the number of children detained by the U.S. government soaring to a record 12,800—the Trump administration is reportedly carrying out dead-of-night “mass transfers” of children from foster homes and shelters to a crowded Texas tent camp, where they have no schooling and limited access to legal services.
According to the New York Times on Sept. 30th, more than 1,600 “migrant children have been roused in the middle of the night in recent weeks and loaded onto buses with backpacks and snacks for a cross-country journey to their new home: a barren tent city on a sprawling patch of desert in South Texas.”
The Times continued: “Until now, most undocumented children being held by federal immigration authorities had been housed in private foster homes or shelters, sleeping two or three to a room. They received formal schooling and regular visits with legal representatives assigned to their immigration cases.
“But in the rows of sand-colored tents in Tornillo, Tex., children in groups of 20, separated by gender, sleep lined up in bunks. There is no school: The children are given workbooks that they have no obligation to complete. Access to legal services is limited.”
“Please remember there are 13,000 migrant children in detention. We can’t forget about them.”
While the Tornillo tent camp was originally opened for just a short period in June to accommodate the growing number of children the Trump administration was ripping from their parents’ arms and locking up, the “pop-up city” was expanded last month to be able to hold 3,800 children.
“A reminder that the Trump administration is diverting money away from Head Start, the National Cancer Institute, the HIV/AIDS programs, maternal and child health programs, and the CDC to pay for these human rights abuses,” Melissa Boteach of the Center for American Progress pointed out, citing a recent Yahoo News report that found the White House is taking hundreds of millions of dollars from key programs to fund its mass detention and deportation policies.
Citing shelter workers who requested anonymity for fear of being fired, the Times reported on Sunday that the transfers from shelters throughout the country to the Tornillo tent camp “are carried out late at night because children will be less likely to try to run away. For the same reason, children are generally given little advance warning that they will be moved.”
“Obviously we have concerns about kids falling through the cracks, not getting sufficient attention if they need attention, not getting the emotional or mental health care that they need,” said Leah Chavla, a lawyer with the Women’s Refugee Commission, told the Times in an interview. “This cannot be the right solution. We need to focus on making sure that kids can get placed with sponsors and get out of custody.”
While the Trump administration’s mass separation and detention of immigrant families sparked outrage at home and throughout the world earlier this year, the fact that hundreds of children remain separated from their families months after the White House’s “zero tolerance” policy supposedly ended has slipped from the headlines amid the day-to-day chaos of the Trump era.
“Please remember there are 13,000 migrant children in detention. We can’t forget about them,” immigrant rights activist and author Julissa Arce wrote in response to the Times report.
Jake Johnson is a Staff Writer for www.CommonDreams.org
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