The Washington Post reports: “Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the twin brother of Julián Castro, led a delegation to the border station in Clint, Tex., on Monday, where attorneys described children held in appalling conditions last month.”
Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general issued a scathing report on DHS detention facilities. The inspector general found “serious overcrowding of [unaccompanied minors] and families, populations defined as ‘at-risk’ ... For example, children at three of the five Border Patrol facilities we visited had no access to showers, despite the [Transport, Escort, Detention and Search] standards requiring that ‘reasonable efforts’ be made to provide showers to children approaching 48 hours in detention.” Moreover, “At these facilities, children had limited access to a change of clothes; Border Patrol had few spare clothes and no laundry facilities. While all facilities had infant formula, diapers, baby wipes, and juice and snacks for children, we observed that two facilities had not provided children access to hot meals.”
Single adults were also mistreated (“at one facility, some single adults were held in standing room only conditions for a week and at another, some single adults were held more than a month in overcrowded cells”).
These conditions, according to the inspector general, create a security risk. “We are concerned that overcrowding and prolonged detention represent an immediate risk to the health and safety of DHS agents and officers, and to those detained. At the time of our visits, Border Patrol management told us there had already been security incidents among adult males at multiple facilities.”
This is intolerable, and the administration must be held to account, as well as Republicans in the Senate who refused House proposals to remedy the very conditions that the inspector general found during on-site visits.
On Tuesday night, a federal court found the administration’s policies unacceptable. The Associated Press reports, “A federal judge in Seattle on Tuesday blocked a Trump administration policy that would keep thousands of asylum-seekers locked up while they pursue their cases, saying the Constitution demands that such migrants have a chance to be released from custody.” The effort to deny these people the right to bond hearings was illegal. (“U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman ruled Tuesday that people who are detained after entering the country illegally to seek protection are entitled to bond hearings.”) The report explained:
“Pechman said that as people who have entered the U.S., they are entitled to the Fifth Amendment’s due-process protections, including “a longstanding prohibition against indefinite civil detention with no opportunity to test its necessity.”
“Immigrant rights advocates including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project sued to block the policy, which was due to take effect July 15.
“‘The court reaffirmed what has been settled for decades: that asylum-seekers who enter this country have a right to be free from arbitrary detention,’ Matt Adams, legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, said in a written statement. ‘Thousands of asylum-seekers will continue to be able to seek release on bond, as they seek protection from persecution and torture.’”
It is not immediately clear how many migrants will be affected or if those held in substandard conditions now will be allowed to leave pending their asylum hearing. Nevertheless, this is a positive sign that the federal courts will not abide the administration’s lawless and immoral conduct.
In short, the zero-tolerance and family separation policies have created an overcrowding nightmare in which the government is unable to provide for the detained migrants’ basic needs or respect their constitutional rights. The administration’s self-made catastrophe must be denounced on a bipartisan and sustained basis until the situation is remedied.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., blasted the administration in a written statement. “The Inspector General’s report provides a shocking window into the dangerous and dehumanizing conditions that the Trump Administration is inflicting on children and families at the border,” she declared. “This report is even more troubling after the discovery of the vile, crude comments made on social media by some of those in CBP responsible for caring for migrant families and children.”
She alluded to the House bill that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., refused to consider (“we have even greater cause for concern and urgency to enact the protections for children and families that were part of the House-passed border supplemental bill”) and, in a separate “Dear Colleague” letter, made clear that the House is not going to let Republicans off easily. “Last week, we saw a disgraceful undermining of American values by Senator Mitch McConnell,” she wrote. “Leader McConnell disrespected the House by refusing to go to conference on the commonsense protections in the House-passed border bill, and declared he would table any amended legislation from the House. He clearly does not sufficiently care about the safety and well-being of children at the border.”
She continued, referencing the vile conditions that members of Congress observed:
“What we have witnessed is unconscionable disrespect for the dignity and worth of God’s children. We have witnessed disrespect for the House and for the oversight duty of Members of Congress to visit sites unannounced to uncover the truth for the America people. We have also learned of vile, crude disrespect for children, families and, indeed, Members of Congress by some in CBP, which demands total repudiation by the Border Patrol and the Trump Administration.”
Democrats, when they return, should demand that Republicans address this human rights disaster before any other business is taken up.
Democrats certainly have public opinion on their side, but there is a stunning divide in opinion on treatment of migrants. “About 6 in 10 Americans (62%) say they disapprove of the treatment migrants are receiving at the border, but there’s a steep partisan divide here as well,” according to a new CNN poll. “Democrats are near-unanimous in their disapproval (93% disapprove), and a majority of independents feel the same (60%), but most Republicans (62%) say they approve of the way migrants are being treated by the government after crossing the US-Mexico border.”
What is wrong with these Republicans?
Perhaps they rely on Fox News and other right-wing propaganda outlets that do not dwell on news unfavorable to the president. Perhaps they simply refuse to disbelieve Trump when he insists that he’s doing a great job and that conditions were worse under President Barack Obama. (That’s a lie.) I certainly hope it is not because Trump has succeeded in convincing his followers that desperate families are a menace, an “infestation,” “animals” and criminals.
We have seen this story before: Strip a group of people of their humanity, whip up fear that they are a threat to the country, abuse and mistreat them, intimidate the media and other independent sources of information and conceal the grotesque treatment of people whom they have treated as less than human. This ongoing nightmare is a stain on this presidency, officials implementing his policies and Republicans defending Trump. Their despicable conduct is enabled by the often cruel and dismissive right-wing media machine that cannot muster empathy for anyone not donning a MAGA hat. If only these people’s pro-life ideology extended to the already born.