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Using Cover of Pandemic, Stephen Miller and Trump Administration Advance “Two Forms of Child Abuse”

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As we’ve been highlighting, the Trump administration, led by Stephen Miller, has been using the cover of the pandemic to advance a host of draconian anti-immigrant and anti-immigration policies, many of which they have long pursued but had been previously unable to enact. These cruel and exploitative policies are disproportionately harming children.

From reinstituting a horrific “Sophie’s Choice” – forcing parents into choosing separation from their children or having their kids indefinitely detained with them in jail-like conditions where COVID-19 risks are elevated – to rushing the deportations of migrant children back to danger and without due process, the Trump team’s cruelty toward children is in overdrive.

A new story by Caitlin Dickerson of the New York Times, “More Than 900 Children Have Been Expelled Under a Pandemic Border Policy,” highlights how the administration has been trampling on safeguards designed to uphold the law and the well-being of children and summarily deporting them without access to the legal process to plead their case for asylum or be reunited with family members in the U.S. The story follows on the heels of recent related coverage in the Los Angeles Times by Molly O’Toole, who profiled a 16-year old girl from Guatemala whose story shows how, “under the cover of the coronavirus, Trump officials are targeting unaccompanied migrant minors for deportation even as lawyers fight to force their release to relatives in the U.S. who have applied to sponsor them,” and an earlier LA Times story by O’Toole and Cindy Carcamo, “Citing coronavirus, Trump officials refuse to release migrant kids to sponsors — and deport them instead.” Other important pieces from Graham Kates and Camilo Montoya-Galvez of CBS News, and Lomi Kriel, in a deep-dive joint reporting project from ProPublica and the Texas Tribune also helped highlight the rapid deportation migrant children, while detainees who turn 18 while in DHS custody are quickly transferred to adult ICE custody where the risk of COVID-19 is high.

According to Pili Tobar, Deputy Director of America’s Voice:

“Stephen Miller and the Trump administration are going for broke, using the cover and distraction of the pandemic to advance cruel and cynical policies. In particular, their treatment of minors through inhumane detention conditions, rapid deportations and family separation are abhorrent – forms of child abuse that are being done in our name to some of the most vulnerable children on the planet.”

Below, find key excerpts from the New York Times, “More Than 900 Children Have Been Expelled Under a Pandemic Border Policy”:

Hundreds of migrant children and teenagers have been swiftly deported by American authorities amid the coronavirus pandemic without the opportunity to speak to a social worker or plea for asylum from the violence in their home countries — a reversal of years of established practice for dealing with young foreigners who arrive in the United States.

The deportations represent an extraordinary shift in policy that has been unfolding in recent weeks on the southwestern border, under which safeguards that have for decades been granted to migrant children by both Democratic and Republican administrations appear to have been abandoned.

…Some young migrants have been deported within hours of setting foot on American soil. Others have been ousted from their beds in the middle of the night in U.S. government shelters and put on planes out of the country without any notification to their families.

…Since the decree was put in effect, hundreds of young migrants have been deported, including some who had asylum appeals pending in the court system.

Some of the young people have been flown back to Central America, while others have been pushed back into Mexico, where thousands of migrants are living in filthy tent camps and overrun shelters.

…Immigrant advocates say their pleas for help ensuring that the children have somewhere safe to go when they land have been ignored. Since the coronavirus was first discovered in the United States in January, 239 unaccompanied minors have been returned to Guatemala, and 183 have been returned to Honduras, according to government figures.

“The fact that nobody knows who these kids are and there are hundreds of them is really terrifying,” said Jennifer Nagda, policy director of the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. “There’s no telling if they’ve been returned to smugglers or into harm’s way.”