What is wrong with us that we're OK with separating families, caging children, holding them hostage for weeks on end in a windowless warehouse where they sleep on cold concrete floors? Where they have too little to eat, no toothbrushes or toothpaste or soap. Where 8-year-olds are told by guards to take care of 2-year-olds because these are children — alone and without their parents.
These are the conditions found by immigration attorneys last week in an announced visit to an overcrowded border station in Clint, Texas, where hundreds of immigrant children were being held at a Customs and Border Protection facility.
What is wrong with us that we're OK our government lawyers, in court just days before, arguing that they should not have to provide soap or towels or toothbrushes to children under the legal settlement that gave immigration lawyers access to facilities such as the one in Clint? That settlement, known as the Flores Agreement, was reached in 1997 — just a scant 22 years ago — and it set the standards for the detention, treatment and release of migrant minors taken into federal immigration custody. In addition to requiring safe and sanitary conditions, the Flores ruling says that legally, children are not supposed to be held by border agents for more than 72 hours before being sent to the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for finding their nearest relative in the U.S. to house them while their immigration cases are adjudicated.
The children incarcerated at Clint told the lawyers they were given the same meals every day — instant oats for breakfast, instant noodles for lunch, a frozen burrito for dinner with a few cookies and juice. Almost every child — brought here from countries where conditions are equally horrible and our government in recent months stopped aide — told the visitors they were hungry.
After reports of the Clint conditions and the court exchange went viral, the Trump administration on Monday reportedly transferred all 350 children out of that facility to HHS. But Tuesday, about 100 were moved back to Clint. And the Clint facility is just one of many. Altogether, Border Patrol is housing about 2,000 children a day in similar hell-holes.
Also on Tuesday, John Sanders, the country's top border security official, signaled he will resign from his job as acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection next month.
Hey, it's just another chaotic day of musical chairs in the Trump administration — and particularly in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Sanders had been acting Customs and Border commissioner for barely two months, named to the role after Trump removed then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and replaced her with then-Customs Commissioner Kevin McAleenan.
The idiocy of letting politics get in the way of decency isn't confined to the White House, which disingenuously blamed Democrats for the crisis, saying they had failed to fund more border detainee beds for the Trump-created debacle.
The House Democrats fell ill to the same political virus, squabbling all day Tuesday over a vote on a $4.5 billion emergency measure to fund the federal refugee office. The contentious piece of legislation divided Democrats in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's caucus who are vehemently opposed to Trump's immigration agenda.
Honestly who among Democrats isn't vehemently opposed? But Pelosi warned that allowing their divisions over the measure (would the money be spent on children or on more harsh immigration tactics?) to sink would play into the president's hands. The agreement they reached for granting more funding includes a provision in the bill that would require government contractors operating temporary shelters to meet strict standards of care within six months or lose their contract.
Obviously Pelosi was right. But so was her opposition — including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York — who said they will not vote to send one cent to the agencies that have carried out the president's harsh immigration policies, even with strings attached to rein in those policies and even if the package is intended to help vulnerable women and children living in badly overcrowded, squalid shelters.
Who can trust this administration — one that can't even keep top key people more than a few months at a time? One that uses innocent children as political pawns?
What is wrong with us that we're OK with this sad, immoral, pathetic excuse for a president? For a Congress?
Enough about them.
What is wrong with us?