Over the last week there have been a number of stories that have illustrated the ways in which the Trump administration’s war on immigrants is having a disproportionate impact on children. From continuing a hard line against the caravan of migrants, mostly people fleeing violence in Honduras, to the shocking admission that the administration lost track of 1,500 immigrant children last year, the war on immigration is hurting families, and doing so with the intention of discouraging their claims for asylum in the United States.
The Trump/Fox invasion isn’t happening. Indeed, the rhetoric about the caravaners crossing Mexico to seek asylum in the United States met a reality check point Sunday. The number of people who arrived at immigration checkpoints in southern California as part of the Pueblo Sin Frontera’s caravan was under 200, mostly women and children fleeing violence in Honduras. Upon arrival, caravaners were told that the port of entry had been closed because the facility at San Ysidro was at capacity. Late Monday, eight members of the caravan were admitted for asylum processing. From the San Diego Union Tribune:
On Monday morning, some 20 members of the caravan, most of them women with small children, spread out on blankets at the door to the port’s PedWest entrance, watching as northbound pedestrian crossers filed past at a rapid clip, heading to jobs, school and shopping excursions.
“I feel that God will help me cross, and will touch the president’s heart,” said José Cristobal Amaya, 16, among the small group waiting at the PedWest door.
The Honduran teenager, who was traveling alone, said he was fleeing gang members he calls Los Mareros who beat his father and threatened to kill his entire family.
The eight caravan members to go through were from this group, with mothers and children the first to be selected, according to a spokesman for Pueblo Sin Fronteras: three mothers, four children, and an 18-year-old were in the initial group.
The spokesman said that they will remain detained at the port until they receive a “credible fear” interview, an initial screening that launches the asylum process.
Meanwhile a larger group of caravan members continued waiting, spread farther from the PedWest entrance in an open area outside El Chaparral, Mexico’s federal port that connects to San Ysidro.
Attorneys who have been assisting them have said that up to 200 participants had been preparing to apply for asylum.
Lost 1,500 children?!?!
The Trump administration was forced to admit that its Department of Health and Human Services had lost track of 1,500 children that were processed through our immigration system. 1,500. Children.
From the Washington Post:
A Senate subcommittee has found that federal officials lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children last year after a government agency placed the minors in the custody of adult sponsors in communities nationwide.
The Health and Human Services Department says it uses its limited funds to track the safety of at-risk children, and could not determine where 1,475 missing minors had gone.
The Health and Human Services Department came under fire two years ago for rolling back child welfare policies meant to protect unaccompanied minors fleeing violence in Central America. An Associated Press investigation found that more than two dozen were placed in homes where they were sexually assaulted, starved or forced to work.
The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations says federal agencies need to take full responsibility for the children’s care.
A more detailed report from Think Progress is here. The number represents 19% of the children processed through the system from October to December last year. Importantly, HHS's system for placing children in custodial arrangements while they await processing has been flawed for years, and cannot be laid entirely on Trump’s doorstep. From the Think Progress report:
Two years ago the subcommittee released a report, detailing how HHS placed more than a dozen immigrant children with human traffickers after officials failed to conduct thorough background checks to sponsors. To prevent this from recurring, HHS and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) signed a memorandum, agreeing to establish procedures together within a year to protect unaccompanied minors who come to the United States. The agencies have not completed the new guidelines, and said they would tell senators Monday, by close of business, when they would complete the agreement.
The systemic problems may not have originated with Trump. Yet, the rapid increase of child separation as a tactic by this administration, without providing adequate safeguards, means the problem is now just worse.