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Horrific stories of the conditions faced by migrant children have followed a court order to return the 3,000 children who were separated from their families by the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance policy”. The Administration is likely to fail to meet a second court deadline to reunite families — and in some cases, some of the families it has reunited have only come together in detention facilities with disturbing conditions. There are widespread reports of lack of inadequate food and water, abuse from guards, and filthy, cold, and cramped living conditions inside the detention facilities.
Many of the immigrants referred to the facilities as “hieleras,” or “ice boxes” because of how cold they are kept, while the indoor fencing areas have been called “dog kennels.” A report filed in federal court by the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law documented 200 accounts of the conditions faced by migrant children and their parents.
“We see a policy of enforced hunger, enforced dehydration, and enforced sleeplessness coupled with routine insults and physical assaults”, said Peter Schey, the executive director at the Center. For the Huffington Post, Angelina Chapin highlighted some of the findings of the report. They are disturbing:
The New York Times also summarized some of the disturbing incidents:
Read more accounts from the lawsuit on the conditions inside the detention facilities here.
More reports and lawsuits have shared similarly disturbing accounts. They include allegations of a 14-month-old reunited with his mother covered in lice and dirt. “It seemed like they had not bathed him the 85 days he was away from us”, said the mother. Another child was returned with bronchitis and scabies. A father of a 3-year-old said his son is not the same as before the separation and would not talk to his dad after they were first reunited. An 11-year-old boy was told to “stop complaining”, after alerting the guard that he was being bullied by his roommate, and was returned to the same room after returning from the hospital for a cracked skull.
Reporting by Reveal found a temporary holding facility that was holding children overnight in an office building that lacked a kitchen, showers, or the ability to separate kids by age or sex. They reported kids bathing out of sinks and lacking any outside play area.
According to the Associated Press, some teens were forced to care for smaller children they did not know, teaching themselves how to change diapers. They also reported that the caged children lacked toys or books and officials at the facility scolded a group of 5-year-olds for playing around.
According to the Washington Post, 49 days was the average stay at one child detention facility. The New York Times reported on the daily life and the many rules inside the detention facility. The day started at 6:30 A.M., with staff banging pots and pans to wake the kids up. The kids, like 10-year-old Diego Magalhães, had to make their beds, wash and mop the bathroom, and scrub the sinks and toilets before waiting in line for breakfast. Acting up could result in an injected sedative. And the children were not allowed to touch one another even if they were related. One young girl recalled that she had hoped to give her little brother a reassuring hug, but “they told me I couldn’t touch him.”
Numerous doctors and child care professionals have warred of the potential long-term or permanent psychological harm to a child who is forcibly separated from his or her family, including higher risks of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress. Doctors who saw some of the separated children in New York worried about their inability to properly treat a sick child absent a parent to provide their medical history. They also warned that these children who are in the midst of trauma, even at a young age, can experience severe depression and suicidal thoughts. The American Academy of Pediatrics president has called Donald Trump’s policy of separating children and families “child abuse.”
Read more first person accounts from separated families here.