The Associated Press has a story today about the conditions inside a Texas detention center where immigrant children are being held, separated from their families.
Inside an old warehouse in South Texas, hundreds of children wait in a series of cages created by metal fencing. One cage had 20 children inside. Scattered about are bottles of water, bags of chips and large foil sheets intended to serve as blankets.
There are close to 200 unaccompanied children inside the facility, according to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. Roughly 2,000 children have been taken from their parents since Attorney General Jeff Sessions implemented a “zero-tolerance” policy at the U.S.-Mexico border. A Trump administration official told the Washington Examiner that as many as 30,000 children could be held in detention centers by the end of this summer (emphasis mine throughout):
Michelle Brane, director of migrant rights at the Women’s Refugee Commission, met with a 16-year-old girl who had been taking care of a young girl for three days. The teen and others in their cage thought the girl was 2 years old.
“She had to teach other kids in the cell to change her diaper,” Brane said.
This is happening, now.
Brane said that after an attorney started to ask questions, agents found the girl’s aunt and reunited the two. It turned out that the girl was actually 4 years old. Part of the problem was that she didn’t speak Spanish, but K’iche, a language indigenous to Guatemala.
“She was so traumatized that she wasn’t talking,” Brane said. “She was just curled up in a little ball.”
There is still much that we don’t know about how these children—sleeping in chain-link cells, under Mylar blankets, in converted warehouses and Walmarts and on military bases dotting the Southern border—are being treated.
Brane said she also saw officials at the facility scold a group of 5-year-olds for playing around in their cage, telling them to settle down. There are no toys or books.
But one boy nearby wasn’t playing with the rest. According to Brane, he was quiet, clutching a piece of paper that was a photocopy of his mother’s ID card.
These anecdotes are just what reporters were able to glean from interviews, and from (highly restricted) visits to the sites. Immigration officials barred reporters from interviewing detainees or taking photos inside the Texas detention center on Sunday.
Dr. Colleen Kraft, the head of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said that she visited a small shelter in Texas recently, which she declined to identity. A toddler inside the 60-bed facility caught her eye — she was crying uncontrollably and pounding her little fists on mat.
Staff members tried to console the child, who looked to be about 2 years old, Kraft said. She had been taken from her mother the night before and brought to the shelter.
The staff gave her books and toys — but they weren’t allowed to pick her up, to hold her or hug her to try to calm her. As a rule, staff aren’t allowed to touch the children there, she said.
One thing capitalism excels at is the unequal distribution of pain throughout a citizenry. It stacks the pain at the lower rungs of society, while leaving those at the top unharmed by its byproducts.
If you are a rich person in this country, the law simply does not apply to you. If you are a poor person of color, you are punished for having the audacity to stay alive. The Trump administration and its enablers blame immigrant families for having their children ripped from their arms, claiming they are simply enforcing the law. This is not true.
Capitalism distributes pain efficiently for its purposes, keeping those at the top unaffected while the rest suffer in silence. For that reason, none of this is likely to change until white people start worrying they could lose their own kids, too.
Through our collective inaction, we continue to condone this treatment every day. It’s not just the Trump administration that is actively harming and traumatizing immigrant families on a massive scale. We are all complicit in these children’s trauma.