As more information on the treatment of undocumented immigrant children in detention centers emerge, nationwide opposition towards the Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy increases.
Images of confinement quarters of those detained by Customs and Border Patrol at the Mexico border leaked last week.
Photos show children sleeping on concrete floors with thin green mats as beds and aluminum thermal blankets for covers. In video footage, young people sit in caged quarters, as the sound of babies crying amplify in the background. Another recorded scene made their rounds in the press and on social media of minors living in an indoor city serving as a Walmart Supercenter-turned-detention-facility in Texas.
When questioned about the footage during a White House press conference on June 18, Kierstjen Nelson, the Secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, denied knowledge of them.
Said Nelson: “I have not seen something that came out today but I have been to detention centers and, again, I would reference you to our standards and I would reference you to the care provided not just by the Department of Homeland Security, but by the Department of Health and Human Services when they get to H.H.S.”
Rep. Karen Bass (D-Ca.) called for Nelson’s resignation.
“She must resign because of the human rights abuses our country has committed under her watch at our border,” said Bass said in a statement after Nielson’s comments.
“Under her leadership, the Department of Homeland Security has carried out state-sanctioned child abuse and yesterday, she took to the White House press podium and lied to the American people about her department’s involvement.”
While Nelson dined at a Mexican restaurant on Tuesday, protestors confronted Nelson. “The fucking gall, shame on you,” said one demonstrator who pointed out the irony of Nelson’s food choice. Most detainees are from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.
Nelson reportedly left the restaurant amid growing chants of, “If kids don’t eat in peace, you don’t eat in peace.”
Part one of a video of @mdc_dsa @DC_IWW and others shouting DHS Secretary Nielsen out of a restaurant. She doesn’t need to be kidnapping #immigrantchildren to deserve this treatment. Don’t give the regime a moment of rest. #KeepFamilesTogether pic.twitter.com/B3RfraOk1E
— Smash Racism DC (@SmashRacismDC) June 20, 2018
Contrary to the pro-family G.O.P. agenda, the “zero tolerance” rules breaks them apart. The executive order was announced by General Jeff Sessions in May. Under the order, it prosecutes those who enter into the country without proper documentation as criminals.
Sessions termed crossing the border with a child as “smuggling.” His categorization of the act as “illegal” justifies the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to separate adults from their children. In most cases, children detained by CBP are not just separated from parents, but forcibly taken away from family members, too.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) have vocalized their opposition. Booker released a video instructing people on what they can do about the policy, while Cummings spoke on the House floor in an emotional appeal to lawmakers proclaiming, “we are better than” allowing children to be separated from their family. As well, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said that the policy does not “fix” the country’s issues with immigration.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.) were denied entry into a federal facility currently holding 94 children. “It’s clear this administration is hiding something,” said Nelson.
HHS just blocked us from entering its facility in Homestead, Florida to check on the welfare of the children being held here. They are obviously hiding something, and we are going to get to the bottom of this. pic.twitter.com/q4m6Zd0ck2
— Senator Bill Nelson (@SenBillNelson) June 19, 2018
“Keep our borders strong”
Since the release of photos and footage, the Trump Administration agreed to overturn the order. In a press conference addressing the policy’s revision, Trump emphasized his commitment to “keep our borders strong.”
He also stated, “We still have to maintain toughness or our country will be overrun by people, by crime, by all of the things that we don’t stand for and that we don’t want.”
The Trump Administration continues to push legislation that is increasingly punitive to undocumented immigrants. Instead of settling on deportation, like previous president Barack Obama, Trump detains people who are arrested in sting operations and round ups throughout the nation.
The revised plan keeps families together who are awaiting a court proceeding, but for only 20 days.