As news of a second child dying in U.S. custody comes to light, horror and disgust for the current administrations' policies towards immigrants continues to boil in communities around the country.
Children and workers are seen at the newly built detention camp in Tornillo, Texas, on 19 June.
Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Image
Reports that an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy died after developing a fever come just weeks after a 7-year-old girl died from dehydration and shock in U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) custody.
Unsurprisingly, GOP members are unilaterally defending the government, calling the deaths "tragic," but insisting that the government had no part in it.
“Obviously those deaths are tragic. Certainly anytime kids die it's terrible,” King said. “But as far as I know, there is no evidence that ICE did anything wrong here. I think anytime you have conditions like this where people are coming up, many of whom have bad health to begin with, they are living in terrible conditions, they come up in a caravan or whatever that this can happen."
Whether or not some of the children are sick before they are apprehended at the border, they should never be held in custody longer then 72 hours anyways. Felipe Gómez Alonzo, the 8 year old boy who died in custody was held for a week when, typically, children are released after 72 hours.
Jakelin Caal died a week before Alonzo from dehydration and shock after being taken into custody. The Department of Homeland Security blamed the death on her parents for crossing the desert in the first place and takes no accountability for their part.
And while more and more concerns for the children's health and safety are voiced, detention centers continue to increase in size and take on far more children than is safe. Even though Trump ended the family separation policy, camps created to hold children that are separated from their families continue to grow.
A detention camp for migrant children in Tornillo, Texas was expected to shut down over a month ago, but instead it continues to expand, being used to accommodate the surging numbers of children being held by the government, despite vehement opposition.
“We’re causing irreparable harm to thousands of children and I think it’s deplorable, despicable, inhumane and un-American and we need to put a stop to it,” said David Stout, a member of the El Paso county commissioners court.
According to recent HHS statistics released to Congress and some media outlets, the department of Health and Human Services (HHS) now has in its custody across the country 12,800 undocumented minors – a fivefold increase in the span of 16 months.
Immigrant advocacy groups say a memorandum of understanding between DHS and HHS, signed in April, is slowing down the release of the minors from federal custody because of new restrictions on sponsors – typically a relative or family friend already living in the US may agree to act as a guardian to an unaccompanied minor crossing the border.
The new procedure requires potential sponsors for the children to submit to fingerprinting of all the adults in the household. Opponents say that acts as a deterrent for sponsors, who may fear the authorities.
“It’s absurd. More and more children are being detained by Ice [Immigration and Customs Enforcement],” said Fernando Garcia, executive director of Border Network for Human Rights, an El Paso-based advocacy organization. “Ice’s [previous] unwillingness to reunite the children, combined with the hardline immigration enforcement, has resulted in this new crisis.”
Last month it was reported that Ice had arrested 41 individuals who came forward as potential sponsors for undocumented migrant children between July and September. And the White House announced plans to sidestep the Flores settlement, a 20-year old agreement which limits the time the federal government can detain immigrant minors to not more than 20 days. According to federal data, the average detention length has risen from 40 to 59 days.
Garcia compared the Tornillo facility to the internment camps for Japanese Americans in the US during the second world war and says it is a government tactic to “dehumanize immigrants”.
“Unfortunately the attitude towards these migrants has been one of painting them as criminals and a threat to society. That represents a problem because with that you can justify having them in prisons, you justify building walls,” he said.
Texas Monthly reported that a source with knowledge of the financial aspects of the camp said it will cost approximately $100m a month to operate the facility when it reaches 3,800 beds.
“What a tragic misuse of federal funding. Imagine the good that money could do in border communities, for example, on enhancing the ports of entry to support the billions of dollars in trade between the US and Mexico. The money spent does nothing to keep us safer, and diverts resources from investments that could expand prosperity in Texas and the US,” Senator Rodríguez said.