Passport Children?: Mark Morgan is Clueless
June 26, 2019
Yesterday we wrote about the Border Patrol detention facility in Clint, Texas where nearly 300 children were being detained in horrible, unsanitary conditions. As we reported, most of the children have been moved from the facility this week - some to another Border Patrol detention facility with an equally bad track record.
The fall out from the Associated Press story last week that made the conditions public is ongoing. In the sphere of public debate, the question of whether or not these facilities are engaging in de facto torture against children has been taken up. On our blog today, Lauren Jones addresses this debate, from the perspective of a mother. She writes, in response to Meghan McCain’s statements, “The point is, Meghan, that children are suffering. They need to be returned to their parents. The behavior and zero-tolerance immigration policy of this administration is deplorable, and something needs to be done about it today.”
Last year we wrote an extensive report on how detention, as practiced in the United States, violates Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The United States is a signatory to the Covenant.
Other fall out from the episode is the resignation of the acting head of the Border Patrol, John Sanders. He is expected to be replaced by acting head of Immigration and Custom Enforcement, Mark Morgan. Morgan is yet another hardliner, and like Trump’s choice for Border Czar, Thomas Homan, another transfer from Obama’s immigration enforcement team.
Defending Trump’s planned (not planned?) raids targeting immigrant families, Morgan said in an interview with the PBS Newshour: “If you come here with a child, that’s a passport in the United States...Nothing happens to you. That’s a slippery slope, and no integrity in the system, and the rule of law is being eroded if we don’t apply consequences.”
Morgan might not have seen the news in the last twenty-four hours and the what is now a viral photograph (we won’t share here) of a father and daughter who drowned in the Rio Grande. The family was from El Salvador. The father, Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, had taken his two-year old daughter, Valeria, across the river. He then got back in the water to help his wife across, but his daughter, fearful of being left, jumped back into the river. When he went to save her, they were both caught up in the current. Their bodies were found a hundred yards downstream the next morning, the daughter secured in her father’s shirt, with her arm around his neck. The family had decided to cross the river after visiting an immigration office in Tamaulipas, Mexico and were apparently turned away.
The number of people who died trying to cross the border, most in the desert, was officially 283 last year. The number of people who die is, however, grossly undercounted as remains often go undiscovered in the desert near the border for years, if found at all. These deaths are a direct result of public policy.
We wrote about this in May, following up on an Intercept report on Scott Warren’s trial (a border volunteer arrested for helping migrants in the desert in Arizona). From the earlier article, and pull quote from the Intercept...
The number of people who die crossing the border has increased dramatically since 2000. And it is important to make clear that this is the result of an intentional policy, “prevention through deterrence,” enacted by the Clinton administration in 1994. The program sought to block irregular border crossing through adjacent urban areas on the U.S./Mexico border by constructing barriers and forcing people into the desert. From the Intercept:
Prevention through deterrence was meant to act in conjunction with the North American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA would bring prosperity to the working Mexican, prevention through deterrence would make the dash across the border too big of a gamble, and illegal crossings would go down. Migration flows did indeed move away from cities once the policy was implemented, but the “hostile terrain” could not disperse the ineluctable forces that drive human beings to move. That’s when the dying began.
Experts can only guess at the true number of lives lost over the last two decades. At a minimum, more than 7,000 people have perished, though the true total is guaranteed to be higher. During the 1990s, the Office of the Pima County Medical Examiner dealt with an average of 12 migrant deaths annually. Over an 18-year period beginning in 2000, once prevention through deterrence was humming along, that number rose to 155 per year. According to the medical examiner’s office, 2,943 sets of human remains have been found in southern Arizona from 2000 to the present; a death toll nearly double Ajo’s summer population.
Donald Trump’s policy of forcing asylum seekers to remain in Mexico, the Orwellian titled “Migrant Protection Protocols,” is making things worse. People unable to cross the border through regular ports of entry and apply for asylum are increasingly using irregular crossings to get through and make their asylum claims from inside the United States. Most border arrests involving families are, in fact, people turning themselves in voluntarily to Border Patrol agents to request asylum. Trump has expanded these protocols across the entire southern border as part of this deal (not deal?) with Mexico announced two weeks ago - and has been sending Central American asylum seekers back across the border to wait for their interview with U.S. immigration authorities.
Of course, if families in fact make it across the border, they risk being separated, their kids shoved into some horrible detention facility where babies urinate on the floor for lack of diapers, the food consists of microwave burritos, and physical and sexual abuse is endemic.
So, yes, Mark Morgan is full of shit. How could anyone say bringing a child is a “passport” for entry into the United States given the history of incarceration, family separation and death that has met families at the U.S. border? Being this out of touch makes him a perfect addition to the Trump team - and, yeah, thanks Obama for giving this guy a job in the first place.