Increasing numbers of families fleeing violence and persecution in Central America are coming into the U.S. to seek asylum. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has ordered more migrants detained, including many without criminal records. This combination means that Immigration and Customs Enforcement is quickly running out of room to detain people, including the high number of unaccompanied minors.
So far, our immigration forces have come up with great solutions like keeping people under a bridge.
Now, the Department of Homeland Security apparently has a new idea about where they might find some space to detain migrant children: the notorious American facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where people suspected of having links to terrorism have been kept for years without trial, according to the New York Times.
From the Times:
In one initiative examined earlier this year, Department of Homeland Security officials looked at housing migrant children at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which has a dormitory facility that has been used in the past to hold asylum seekers. The proposal to house migrant children from the Southwest border there has not gained traction, perhaps because of the optics of housing young people adjacent to terrorism suspects, according to one official who had seen the proposal but was not authorized to discuss it publicly.
While there were no “immediate” plans to house migrant children at Guantánamo Bay, the Defense Department is attempting to identify military bases that might be used for that purpose, a department spokesman, Tom Crosson, said on Monday.
Yeah, the optics are, shall we say, not great.
The Guantanamo detention camp has been accused of breaking international laws including the Geneva Convention and the UN Convention Against Torture many times. President Obama promised for years to get rid of the Guantanamo Bay facility, but his efforts were stymied by the Republican legislature. So the facility is still there, still housing 40 “enemy combatants” who are held there without trial or access to lawyers.
But that’s not gonna stop us from building a migrant detention complex at Guantanamo! In fact, we’re already working on it.
From the Times:
Meanwhile, authorities are struggling to identify new locations where migrants can be held in detention. The military awarded a $23 million contract in February to build a “contingency mass migration complex” at Guantánamo, a plan that would expand the existing facility to house 13,000 migrants and 5,000 support staff in tents. That project appears intended primarily to accommodate a crush of migrants that might accompany a new crisis in the Caribbean, though it could theoretically be used to house Central Americans.
ICE Is also apparently looking at other military bases as possibilities for migrant detention sites. They say they have no other option.
“It’s clear that all of our resources are being stretched thin. The system is full, and we are beyond capacity,” Kevin K. McAleenan, the acting homeland security secretary, told reporters at the border.
But that’s not true. The other option would be to just not detain people who we have no reason to suspect are dangerous.
“We have to remember that it is a choice to jail asylum seekers, and it is a choice that is at odds with international human rights norms,” Heidi Altman, the director of policy at the National Immigrant Justice Center, told the Times.
It’s probably best to look at why exactly we’re detaining so many people and whether it’s necessary before we start sending kids to Gitmo. Just a thought.
Read the rest of the story over at the Times.