Conditions for migrant children in detention centers might only get worse, but our outrage isn't futile
After extensive public pressure to move the migrant children being held in a dirty, overcrowded Texas facility, authorities announced on June 25 that the kids in the Clint location would be transferred elsewhere, according to the AP. Yet while the children getting moved is certainly great news, it does not mean that the overarching issues with detaining children have dissipated. Despite the increasing public outrage, the Trump administration has no plans to end the caging of minors.
Just before the conditions in the Clint center were revealed, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced its plans to expand one of the South Texas facilities for unaccompanied minors. On its face, this might seem like good news; an expansion of the facility means that overcrowding may lessen, and fewer people might mean better food, health care, and access to showers and clean clothes. But that is not likely, as the government has been working hard to reduce the standards of the Flores Settlement, which says that detained migrant minors must have safe and sanitary conditions and shouldn't be in detention facilities for extended periods of time.
The Flores Settlement has been routinely violated since it was created in 1985, most glaringly by the Trump administration. In recent months, it's fought to end the Settlement's provisions that children must be sent to licensed facilities within just a few days of their detainment, among other aspects. Given the time, energy, and money spent by the government on fighting the Settlement, it seems highly unlikely that the detention of minors will end anytime soon or that any significant changes to their conditions will be made — regardless of if facilities get expanded.
Just a month ago, on May 22, the McAllen, Texas, facility was quarantined after a 16-year-old boy named Carlos Hernandez Vasquez died from the flu. He was one of six children who have died while detained in government facilities since December 2018, and reports about overcrowding and poor conditions in several centers have circulated for months now. Yet Trump has made clear that he does not plan to stop detaining migrants, and that it'll remain the response to people seeking asylum at the southern border.
Immigration "reform" has been one of Trump's main talking points for years, first as a candidate, then as president, and his administration has wasted no time trotting out spectacularly cruel immigration policies. If anything, the expansion of detention facilities implies that the government expects even more people will be detained going forward, including thousands of children. And while the president's threats about the mass detainment and deportation of migrants and immigrants may not be currently feasible due to the limited resources of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, raids are likely to happen in some capacity, at the very least. There is a continued commitment from the Trump administration to use fear and intimidation to address immigration issues, and it's likely only going to get worse.
Of course, it's not like before Trump, American immigration policies were ever exceptional, or even good; they've included racial and ethnic quotas, mass deportations, and the turning away of asylum seekers during war and genocide. But unlike his predecessors, Trump seems intent on turning the failures of the past into benchmarks for the future, amplifying the worst of the government's behavior, and inflicting maximum terror and suffering on immigrants at the border and within the country.
The most recent, visceral example of this is the reports from inside the Clint detention center, in which kids ranging from 2 to 16 were seen wearing filthy clothing stained with sweat, dirt, and snot. Many of the children hadn't showered and were being fed low-quality foods; babies were being taken care of by slightly older kids, and some children were sick, feverish, or displaying symptoms of serious illness.
In reacting to the reports, politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez compared the facilities to "concentration camps," and people everywhere mobilized to help the kids. Donation links to immigrant advocacy organizations were shared widely, and addresses of detention centers and phone numbers for representatives were posted in Facebook posts and Twitter threads.
Despite this outrage and activism, however, the government taking actual action to help these children is highly doubtful. No matter how much anger, shaming, and protesting is demonstrated by the public, the Trump administration has never shown a desire to do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do. Instead, it's historically addressed protest as simply a public relations issue, and nothing more.
No matter what we do, the situation at the border will likely only get worse, at least in the foreseeable future. As Trump campaigns for a second term in office, his anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies are only amplified. That doesn't mean our anger is futile, though. Donation-driven organizations like United We Dream, RAICES, Las Americas, and Mijente are working at the local, state and federal levels to counter the impact of harmful immigration policies, and Senators and Representatives can perhaps be pressured into taking substantive action with enough impassioned calls from their constituents.
As long as the Trump administration keeps detaining children, the public must remain outraged, even if it seems like no real changes can be made. It's vital that the abuses committed by the government are continuously condemned by as many people as possible; every detained child, every bad policy, every attempt at doing the wrong thing, should be met with force, because doing nothing would send the message that we're condoning the administration's horrific behavior.