The United States maintains the largest undocumented immigration detention infrastructures in the world. There were an estimated 363 or more detention sites in operation within 2007-2009. Children constitute the largest migrant population, and even though the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has not been open to publicizing up-to-date figures of the exact numbers at detention centers, journalistic findings have estimated there could be 1500 detained children reported in December 2018 by The Guardian. As devastating as fleeing from a conflict-torn country can be for these migrant children, it is even more traumatizing to be detained without access to basic sanitary provisions and eatable food and water, Human Rights Watch remarked.
The U.S. law stipulates migrant children cannot be detained for more than 72 hours, but most Border Patrol Officers have held children for several days under deplorable living conditions. The rooms are usually overcrowded with little or no space to sleep.
In the recent reports unfolded by Jacob Soboroff and Julia Ainsley of MSNBC about the inhumane treatment of migrant children at the Yuma, Arizona detention center, the Trump administration’s nonchalance to address this age-old complaint common to several detention centers around the U.S. is even more prevalent.
Based on information from government case managers, some children had the following remarks to make; when a 16-year-old Guatemalan boy and his cellmates complained about the food and chlorine-filled water provided to them, the Border agents retaliated by taking away their sleeping mats forcing them to sleep on concrete floors. Another child always slept hungry because dinner was served after 9 p.m.
This unfair treatment has transformed into sexual assault as a 15-year-old Honduras girl recounted how a patrol officer allegedly “embarrassed” her in public.
Verbal abuse is another remark made by a 17-year-old Honduras boy, as he recounts how the officers will scold at them using insulting Spanish words like “puto”.
Some children emphasized they were denied their rights to make phone calls, given Mylar blankets to sleep on concrete floors and worst of all, not allowed to have a shower. All the children mentioned poor sleeping conditions spanning but not limited to either no blankets, pillows, mattresses or space to sleep.
Some critics blame the parents of the children but others have joined voices with Arizona’s Senators. Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally to say, there must be an investigation of these reports and sanctions for these officers’ Azcentral reports.
Although the Director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli has promised investigations will be carried out and the agents will be fired, people still question why the administration is not instituting a sustainable solution to these continuous complaints from hundreds of migrant children, The Washington Post added.
Executive Director of Migrant Center for Human Rights, Sara Ramey told the Globe Post “children and adults have the right to be treated humanely and, during the time that the government is depriving them of their liberty, the government is responsible for providing appropriate care.” She added, ” donations should not be necessary but it would be good if people were allowed to make gifts.”
Representatives Andy Biggs and Debbie Lesko, two of Arizona’s Republicans, described beleaguered Border Patrol agents trying to manage a massive influx of migrants with no extra resources. The Trump administration has to enact policies that permit philanthropists who want to donate basic supplies for migrants at detention centers. Equally, they must end their cruel immigration policies, stop separating families, and utilize alternatives to detention that will remove children from these harmful facilities.