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As President Trump’s bluster and threats and declarations of victories on immigration continue to dominate discussion, we have a host of new reminders about the human toll inflicted by his administration’s failures along the border and related unwillingness to develop a sensible, humane, and effective strategy for dealing with the humanitarian and refugee crisis on display.
According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication at America’s Voice: “Instead of recognizing the costs and consequences of his failures, President Trump continues to push hardline deterrence policies and throw more money after a bad approach that is destined to keep failing. Trump’s actions are motivated largely by fear that his base may figure out that he is failing on his number one issue, immigration. Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of children, families and adults are being harmed by Trump’s refusal to promote a sane strategy that correctly recognizes we need to treat this like a refugee and humanitarian crisis. Once again, Trump is too busy running for President to be bothered with actually being President and taking steps to protect human beings asking for America’s help.”
[For a fuller exploration of horrific immigrant detention conditions, see this DHS Watch piece].
Among the articles underscoring the human toll of Trump’s failures and his refusal to change strategies:
Bob Moore in Texas Monthly, “In El Paso, Border Patrol Is Detaining Migrants in ‘a Human Dog Pound’”
New Mexico State University professor Neal Rosendorf read a government report exposing dangerous overcrowding of detained migrants at the Paso del Norte International Bridge in El Paso, he headed to the port of entry to see if he could find anyone protesting conditions there. When he reached the west side of the bridge, he encountered an unmarked open gate, which he walked through in the hopes of asking Border Patrol agents whether they had seen any protesters. Continuing underneath and then past the bridge about 100 yards or so, he was stunned by what he saw—migrants who said they’d been held outdoors for weeks as temperatures rose to nearly 100 degrees.
Rosendorf described it as “a human dog pound”—one hundred to 150 men behind a chain-link fence, huddled beneath makeshift shelters made from mylar blankets and whatever other scraps they could find to shield themselves from the heat of the sun. “I was able to speak with detainees and take photos of them with their permission,” Rosendorf said in an email. “They told me they’ve been incarcerated outside for a month, that they haven’t washed or been able to change the clothes they were detained in the entire time, and that they’re being poorly fed and treated in general.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection took eight days to respond to Texas Monthly’s questions about Rosendorf’s discovery. In a statement this week, a CBP official acknowledged that the agency was detaining migrants outdoors for extended periods.
W.J Hennigan in Time Magazine, “Trump Administration to Hold Migrant Children at Base That Served as WWII Japanese Internment Camp”
The Trump Administration has opted to use an Army base in Oklahoma to hold growing numbers of immigrant children in its custody after running out of room at government shelters.
Fort Sill, an 150-year-old installation once used as an internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II, has been selected to detain 1,400 children until they can be given to an adult relative, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
…Health and Human Services said in a statement that it has taken about 40,900 children into custody through April 30. That’s a 57% increase from last year, which is a rate on-pace to surpass the record figures in 2016, when 59,171 minors were taken into custody. The agency had assessed two other military bases before selecting Fort Sill.
The children would be held inside facilities that are separate from the general on-base population. HHS personnel, not American troops, will oversee them.
Adolfo Flores in Buzzfeed News “Medical Care For Immigrants Is Only Getting Worse At An ICE Detention Center, Advocates Say”
A year after immigrant advocates made US authorities aware of poor medical and mental health care at a Colorado detention facility, conditions have only gotten worse, according to a new complaint filed Tuesday.
The new administrative complaint, obtained by BuzzFeed News, was submitted to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and Office of Inspector General. It detailed stories of immigrant detainees who received inconsistent medication, suffered delayed medical care, and faced threats of punitive segregation following suicide attempts.
…The complaint said a 71-year-old Mexican man with Parkinson’s disease and chronic kidney disease held at DCDF receives a different number of pills at times without explanation. The man, referred to with the pseudonym “Omar” in the report, also has dementia and is unable to determine whether he is receiving the correct dosage.
“According to Omar, the nurse informed him that he was receiving fewer pills because they ran out of the medication he is supposed to receive,” the complaint read.
An independent physician contracted by Omar’s attorney said that while in detention, Omar has not received appropriate treatment for his asthma, panic attacks, anxiety, or Parkinson’s disease, among other conditions.
“We consistently hear reports from people who ask for critical medical attention and they are denied,” Shepherd said.
A transgender woman, who is being held in a men’s dorm at the Aurora facility and faces repeat sexual harassment, hasn’t been given the hormone medication since January that she had been taking for eight years. According to the complaint, she is depressed and feels hopeless.
Judith, a 42-year-old Mexican woman who is being held at the new 432-bed wing of the facility known as Aurora South, said she hasn’t been receiving cortisone shots she received at a previous detention center for arm and knee injuries. Judith (“Judith” is a pseudonym she is using in the complaint out of fear of retaliation from ICE and the GEO Group) sustained her injuries while working in the kitchen of an immigration jail in Eloy, Arizona.
Noah Lanard in Mother Jones, “ICE Is Sending Asylum-Seekers to the Private Prison Where Mother Jones Exposed Abuse”
In 2016, Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer took readers inside a Louisiana private prison where he spent four months working as a guard. His award-winning investigation exposed a dehumanizing institution plagued by rampant violence and medical neglect. Now the Trump administration is using the same facility to detain asylum-seekers who seek protection at the southern border.
…Winn is currently holding about 1,500 people, including both immigrants and criminals. ICE spokesman Bryan Cox confirmed that the agency began using the facility this month but did not say how many immigrants are or will ultimately be detained there. Marshall Goff, an attorney with the Mississippi law firm Chhabra & Gibbs, says a Winn prison official told him that more than 1,000 immigrants are expected to be held there soon.
…Under Trump, ICE is increasingly contracting with local jails and private prisons around the country to house migrants since its own detention centers don’t have enough capacity to hold the people it detains. In Louisiana, the agency has hugely expanded its presence, causing many migrants to be sent from the border to remote parts of the state. This expansion could allow ICE to detain more than 7,000 people at a time in Louisiana, more than triple its capacity in 2016. Only Texas has more immigration detention space.
Louisiana is one of the worst places in the country for immigrants to be detained, since attorneys are in short supply, the state’s judges are among the toughest in the nation, and ICE’s regional office denies nearly everyone’s applications to be released from detention. ICE was detaining roughly 53,000 people last week nationwide, even though Congress has told it to go back to detaining about 40,000 people by September.