Monday, October 1, 2018

Under Cover Of Darkness

From the New York Times:

In shelters from Kansas to New York, hundreds of migrant children have been roused in the middle of the night in recent weeks and loaded onto buses with backpacks and snacks for a cross-country journey to their new home: a barren tent city on a sprawling patch of desert in West Texas.

Until now, most undocumented children being held by federal immigration authorities had been housed in private foster homes or shelters, sleeping two or three to a room. They received formal schooling and regular visits with legal representatives assigned to their immigration cases.

But in the rows of sand-colored tents in Tornillo, Tex., children in groups of 20, separated by gender, sleep lined up in bunks. There is no school: The children are given workbooks that they have no obligation to complete. Access to legal services is limited.

These midnight voyages are playing out across the country, as the federal government struggles to find room for more than 13,000 detained migrant children — the largest population ever — whose numbers have increased more than fivefold since last year.

The average length of time that migrant children spend in custody has nearly doubled over the same period, from 34 days to 59, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees their care.

To deal with the surging shelter populations, which have hovered near 90 percent of capacity since May, a mass reshuffling is underway and shows no signs of slowing. Hundreds of children are being shipped from shelters to West Texas each week, totaling more than 1,600 so far.

The camp in Tornillo operates like a small, pop-up city, about 35 miles southeast of El Paso on the Mexico border, complete with portable toilets. Air-conditioned tents that vary in size are used for housing, recreation and medical care. Originally opened in June for 30 days with a capacity of 400, it expanded in September to be able to house 3,800, and is now expected to remain open at least through the end of the year.

Call it what it is: a concentration camp, with all of the weight and history that the name brings with it.  Regardless of the condition of the facilities, they are meant for one purpose: to traumatize and mark these children so that if they should ever be reunited with their families, they will carry the message that if you try to seek asylum or protection from crime, terror, or abuse in your home country, the United States under Trump will do their level best to scare you into staying away.

The repercussions will be felt for a very long time in ways we cannot imagine, but child psychologists have already noted that such trauma results in depression, acting out, truancy, assault, increased levels of crime, and more costs to the country than what this cruelty — intentional or otherwise — is inflicting on both the refugees and the people charged with dealing with them.

I am sure there are those who think that this is the best way to handle the problem and that nothing evil or cruel should be implied; after all, we didn’t ask them to come here.  (Actually, we did.  That’s one of the reasons we started this country in the first place.)  But if it’s such a noble and humanitarian gesture, why are they doing it in the dark of night and away from the cameras?