Trump administration jailed 'unprecedented' 69,550 migrant kids in past year: report

Trump administration jailed 'unprecedented' 69,550 migrant kids in past year: report
Overcrowding of families observed by OIG on June 11, 2019, at Border Patrol’s Weslaco, TX, Station. Source: Office of the Inspector General

The U.S. is hitting plenty of records under the presidency of Donald Trump—and they’re records we should be ashamed of. An ongoing joint investigation between The Associated Press and the PBS series Frontline on the treatment of migrant children under U.S. watch has found his administration jailed an unprecedented 69,550 kids in the past year. “That’s more children detained away from their parents than any other country, according to United Nations researchers.”

This includes children that officials have stolen from their families, done so with full knowledge that family separation and detention cause long-term harm to children, and done so with the fact that for the first time in years, migrant kids have died under U.S. watch. “Early experiences are literally built into our brains and bodies,” said Dr. Jack Shonkoff of Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, and few experiences can be more traumatic for a child than armed agents ripping them out of a guardian’s arms.

In just one example cited in the investigation, U.S. officials took a three-year-old Honduran toddler from her dad last March—keep in mind the administration has supposedly been blocked from separating families under a June 2018 court order—and put her into a foster home where another child molested her. “As the days passed, she began urinating on herself and seemed unable to eat or drink, a foster parent said in the records,” the investigation said.

For three weeks, the dad didn’t know where his three-year-old was, kept totally in the dark by officials. When he finally did get to talk to her on the phone, she was hysterical, and accused him of abandoning her. “I don’t love you Daddy, you left me alone,” he said the sobbing child told her.

A separate tally from last month found the U.S. has kidnapped nearly 5,500 children from their families at the border since 2017. By comparison, “in Canada, immigrant children are separated from their parents only as a last resort; 155 were detained in 2018. In the United Kingdom, 42 migrant children were put in shelters in 2017, according to officials in those countries.”

In a recent “groundbreaking” ruling, a federal judge said that the Trump administration must provide mental health services to the thousands of children and parents that were ripped apart under the barbaric “zero tolerance” policy at the southern border, ruling the U.S. “could be held accountable for the enduring psychological harm brought about by forcibly taking children from their parents at the border with no guarantee of when or how they would be reunited.”

Many of these children have already been deported, as was the case of the Honduran girl and her dad. The investigation found that despite his pleas for officials to conduct a DNA test to prove his paternity, officials refused, leading the dad to give up and ask a judge to just deport them. “The government sent him back to Honduras alone. His daughter followed a month later in mid-August.”

Back in Honduras, the girl “played with her younger sister and snuggled up beside her grandfather, but ignored her father’s entreaties and refused to hold his hand, convinced he tried to leave her for good. ‘When I wanted to cradle her in my arms she started to cry,’ he said.”

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