Horrific stories of separated immigrant children held in detention centers proliferate almost daily and they are unlikely to end anytime soon. Donald Trump may have walked back his family separation policy, but his new plan is to detain both parents and children together. As the country is consumed with debates about whether it’s okay to yell at White House officials in public, the Washington Post spoke to numerous current and former employees of child detention centers. They detail a grim day-to-day.
The more than 2,000 children who have been ripped from their parents are spread out across the country, often with little understanding of what’s happening to them. They lack personal information such as names and phone numbers that would help reunite them with their parents. The Post’s reporting gives us a glimpse into their daily routines.
Some are forced to recite the “Pledge of Allegiance” in English, to the country that has traumatized them:
And now they live and wait in unfamiliar places: big American suburban houses where no one speaks their language; a locked shelter on a dusty road where they spend little time outside; a converted Walmart where each morning they are required to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, in English, to the country that holds them apart from their parents.
Why must they say those words, some of the children ask at the shelter in Brownsville, on the Mexican border in Texas?
“We tell them, ‘It’s out of respect,’” said one employee of the facility, known as Casa Padre, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing their job.
In the meantime, employees are being taught how to use “physical holds” on children:
Youth-care workers were told to discourage children from speaking their indigenous Central American languages, he said, before the policy was reversed. And when the number of separated kids rose from a handful to more than 50 in the 300-person shelter, employees were given a “refresher” course in how to use physical holds on kids, Davidson said.
Some children are so young that lawyers who teach them about their legal situation and their rights must resort to stick figure drawings:
Lawyers show up at the centers, sometimes bringing toys or stress balls for the children to play with. Some lawyers try to teach the kids about their predicament, offering “Know Your Rights” presentations, explaining the U.S. legal system to older kids, drawing stick-figure sketches of courtrooms for younger ones.
Other children are depressingly realistic about their futures:
“Some say, ‘I’m going to be the most famous singer’ and others say, ‘I’m going to be a soccer star,’ ” the employee said. Others share a different expectation: “Remember that we don’t have papers,” an older child said. “We’ll probably work in construction.”
Rather than harping on the “incivility” on the left, this is the news that should be consuming us, day in and day out. The habitual institutionalization of children is inhumane and the stories are only going to get worse. Even if, as the administration announced, it will begin to reunify families, we don’t know how many parents have already been deported, or what exactly the future holds.
You can read the Washington Post story, in full, right here.