By Ashley Cooper

This morning, the first spacious morning in a while, I wake with the urgent feeling. I must invest time and energy in understanding what is happening to migrant children and families right now. My feeling is that this moment is like that of early Nazi Germany. Being Jewish, I was taught about the Holocaust at an early age. I’ve often wondered about the days and years leading up to concentration camps. How did it happen? How did so many people sit by and let such horror happen? So today… I will learn more about what I am sitting by and allowing to happen.

My 12-year old friend asked me this morning what I was doing. I said, researching awful things. He couldn’t understand why I would choose to do that. If my heart becomes aware, I feel a responsibility to humanity to face the truth of what is happening and listen deeply for guidance about how I am to respond. I will keep sharing what I’m learning.

Research
May 25, 2018 — There is a new policy being enacted this year to separate children from their families at the border. Some may be arriving to seek legal asylum, some trying to cross the border, but these are young children arriving with family members. MSNBC Chris Hayes reports on this with expert guests. VIDEO HERE. This process includes babies and very young children. In the past, there were children who crossed the border on their own. However, the current policy is for the U.S. government to separate the children from their families, causing significant trauma for these young children who are already in a state of trauma as many are fleeing violence seeking safety (asylum) in the U.S.

August 2017 -ACLU Report https://www.aclu.org/blog/immigrants-rights/ice-and-border-patrol-abuses/ice-plans-start-destroying-records-immigrant

“ICE has asked for permission to begin routinely destroying 11 kinds of records, including those related to sexual assaults, solitary confinement and even deaths of people in its custody. Other records subject to destruction include alternatives to detention programs, regular detention monitoring reports, logs about the people detained in ICE facilities, and communications from the public reporting detention abuses. ICE proposed various timelines for the destruction of these records ranging from 20 years for sexual assault and death records to three years for reports about solitary confinement.”

“Keeping these documents available is necessary for the public to understand and fully evaluate the operation of a system that is notorious for inhumane and unconstitutional conditions affecting hundreds of thousands of people every year.”

“Recent reports by advocacy groups document sexual assaults in detention without adequate investigation or remedy, sub-standard medical care, the overuse of solitary confinement as well as threats and physical assault by custody staff. Since October 2016, there have been 10 deaths in immigration detention. Many of the records used in these reports and analyses would not have been made available without sustained public pressure to force ICE to maintain and divulge this information.”

An April 26, 2018 report from Children and Families U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to Subcommittee on Investigations Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs United States Senate

UAC = unaccompanied alien children
ORR = Office of Refugee Resettlement

2017 – 40,810 children were referred to ORR from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

2018 (through March) – 21,574 children referrals.

March 2017, ORR had 755 referrals; while in March 2018, ORR had 4,204 referrals.

Facilities

At this time, we have no temporary facilities open at Department of Defense locations. The last one closed in February 2017.
As of March 2018, we are operating one temporary influx facility at a Department of Labor site.
ORR now has its largest permanent shelter capacity at over 9,800 beds, and we continue to maintain the majority of our shelter capacity along the southern border.
In FY 2017, children typically stayed in ORR custody for 51 days and so far in FY 2018 (through March) average length of stay has been 56 days.
Teenagers

83 percent of referrals in FY 2017
87 percent in FY 2018.
“Children who migrate to the U.S. are particularly vulnerable to being exploited by human traffickers en route and at their destination.”

From Custody to Sponsors

2017 – ORR released 93 percent of children to a sponsor.

49 percent to parents
41 percent to close relatives
10 percent to other-than-close relatives or non-relatives.
2018 – ORR have released 90 percent of children to individual sponsors

41 percent were parents
47 percent were close relatives
11 percent were other-than-close relatives or non-relatives
“The report outlines ways that ORR has decreased the ability of potential sponsors to use fraudulent documents during the sponsor assessment process. Which must mean that there was a high degree of fraudulent documents being used by sponsors to acquire children.”

Losing track of at least 1,475 children

“From October to December 2017, ORR attempted to reach 7,635 UAC and their sponsors. Of this number, ORR reached and received an agreement to participate in the safety and well-being call from approximately 86 percent of sponsors. From these calls, ORR learned that 6,075 UAC remained with their sponsors. Twenty-eight UAC had run away, five had been removed from the United States, and 52 had relocated to live with a non-sponsor. ORR was unable to determine with certainty the whereabouts of 1,475 UAC.”

Department of Health and Human Services & Office of Refugee Resettlement currently not responsible for children taken into custody and then released to sponsors.

“It has been HHS’s long-standing interpretation of the law that ORR is not legally responsible for children after they are released from ORR care. However, considering the importance of the post-release period, we are taking a fresh look at that question as a matter of both legal interpretation and appropriate policy. Specifically, we are exploring the question of ORR’s responsibilities in relation to children who are released to sponsors, and whether the level of responsibility would differ depending on the child’s relationship to his or her sponsor. Based on what we have learned so far, if ORR were to remain legally obligated for the welfare of UAC after their release to a sponsor, or took on additional protective measures even if not legally obligated, those procedures would require a significant expansion of the current program structure and an increase in resources, and possibly additional legal authorities to further clarify ORR’s role.”

May 15, 2018 Hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

“Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testifying May 15 before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee where she said evades what the policies are for causing the least amount of trauma for children and admits that more must be done to protect children taken at the border.”

“I couldn’t agree with your concerns more,” Nielsen said. “We owe it to these children to protect them.”

According to the article, HHS operates more than 100 shelters across the nation for children seized at the border.

Video of the hearing: http://launch.newsinc.com/share.html?trackingGroup=93075&siteSection=inform_oembed&videoId=33812458
Article: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/nation/2018/05/16/homeland-security-chief-defends-policy-separates-families-entering-u-s/614505002/
May 23, 2018 – Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez, a 20-year-old woman from Guatemala was shot & killed by US Border Patrol. NYTimes and CNN report on this. Evidently, the story from officials has changed since the incident.

“Guatemala condemns violent acts and any other use of excessive force by the Border Patrol. We urge authorities to respect the rights of our citizens, especially their right to live, regardless of their immigration status,” theGuatemala’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

May 25, 2018 – excerpts from the article: What Separating Migrant Families at the Border Actually Looks Like

“The Trump administration is now going even further than the Obama administration in its attempts to deter asylum seekers, as it seeks to terrify mothers from coming here with their children. The prosecutions have already started flooding border courts, and this “zero-tolerance” policy has only just begun. Meanwhile, the refugee crisis of Central America’s Northern Triangle countries continues apace—16 times the number of people from the region were displaced in 2017 as were in 2011, the UN refugee agency noted in a recent report. The families have a legal right to seek asylum here—and as devastating as the consequences may be, they will not stop coming. The terror they leave behind is much worse.”

“In early May, Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, said he will take a stricture stance on illegal crossings of the Southern U.S. border, prosecuting 100% of people crossing, and making it an official policy to separate children from their parents. Already, 658 kids in the first 13 days of the program have been ripped from their families, Customs and Border Protection disclosed in a Senate subcommittee hearing on May 23. (Video of the hearing below)”

“This policy is intended to punish the adults by criminally prosecuting them for entering the country, thereby deterring others from making the journey north. But it does incalculable damage to the children at an already traumatic moment in their lives, often stripping them from their mothers when their mothers are all they have.”

“There’s a real trend towards trying to put all asylum seekers in the same category as gang members even when all this young mother was seeking was to protect these young boys by bringing them to the US.” ~ director of University of Texas’s Immigration Law Clinic

“Time and time again, the women say they only brought their children here to save their lives.”

“Mothers convicted of illegal entry can be sentenced to up to six months in jail and be dealt up to $10,000 in fines, while the youths are shipped off to Office of Refugee Resettlement shelters around the country—and ORR and the US Marshals Service, which prosecutes the mothers, do not communicate, Jennifer Podkul, policy director for Kids in Need of Defense, told me.”

“Even once the parents are out of jail and transferred to immigrant detention centers, they remain divided from their kids—meaning some parents are deported before their children even know it, said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants Rights Project.”

“Already the ORR shelters equipped to house unaccompanied minors—which until now have been children traveling without a parent—are 91 percent full. To quickly make more room, the Trump administration now plans to put kids on military bases—which the Obama administration did in the past with unaccompanied teens. But this setup is only meant for kids 13 and older for temporary emergency stays. And while the vast majority—83 percent last year—of unaccompanied minors entering the country have been older than 13, children traveling with parents tend to be far younger, often babies.”

“These children may have to wait for their parents to get out of detention, or they may seek another adult sponsor already in the US to claim them. But those adults are now more fearful to come forward, since the Trump administration just two weeks ago announced a proposal to collect information on potential sponsors’ immigration status, information that could be used for enforcement purposes. As Carey told me, “It appears we’re setting up a long-term incarceration system for children.”

“While each family makes up a single asylum case when that family is kept together, when parents and children are in different locations different courts handle them.”

“This spells trouble for a legal system already overwhelmed by a backlog of nearly 700,000 cases—and since immigrants don’t have the right to free legal help, we’re likely to see more young children representing themselves in immigration court.”

Video of the Senate hearing to the Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration. NOTE- the presiding Senator is Senator Tillis from North Carolina:
https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/meetings/tvpra-and-exploited-loopholes-affecting-unaccompanied-alien-children

May 2018 ACLU Report
Looking at 2009-2014

“Children crossing the United States’ southern border are primarily from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Many migrant children from these countries are fleeing gang violence, social unrest, and endemic poverty.”

“Despite binding federal laws and agency policies to protect children at our borders, inadequate enforcement and oversight mechanisms have left this vulnerable group unprotected and without access to justice. A new report by the University of Chicago International Human Rights Clinic reviews one subset of the records—and documents shocking child abuse.”

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has the authority to detain migrant children for a limited period of time to determine whether the child should be transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or qualifies for immediate removal from the United States.”

“By law, unaccompanied migrant children may only be held in CBP custody for 72 hours and are entitled to various basic protections, including: dignified and respectful treatment; safe, secure and clean facilities; adequate food and drinking water; and proper medical care. Federal law further requires personnel working in federal facilities to report possible child abuse to law enforcement, child protective services, or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).”

“CBP officials have often ignored these legal obligations.”

“The records obtained reflect rampant abuse. Children describe excessive force: being stomped on, punched, kicked, run over with vehicles, tased, and forced to maintain stress positions by CBP officials. Minors also report verbal abuse: being called a “dog,” “piece of crap,” “son of a bitch,” and “prostitute,” and being told they “contaminate this country.” In complaints, children describe being deprived of edible food and potable water and held in freezing and unsanitary cells with inadequate bedding and no access to personal hygiene items. Children report being threatened with rape and death, being told to remove their clothing before they are subjected to questioning, and being touched inappropriately by CBP officials.”

“Children’s complaints of abuse have been ignored and mishandled, allowing CBP officials to act with impunity. DHS does not appear to have reported alleged child abuse out to the FBI. The records provide no indication that DHS has taken any remedial or disciplinary measures to hold any individual accountable for these abuses.”

One Pager: https://www.dropbox.com/s/kx3zey3b6s5hmbu/CBP_1-Pager_final.pdf?dl=0

Full Report:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/lplnnufjbwci0xn/CBP%20Report%20ACLU_IHRC%205.23%20FINAL.pdf?dl=0

Appendix:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/vsf7io4tb1tawsp/2018%2005%2022%20APPENDIX_MERGED%20Final.pdf?dl=0