Guess We'll Never Get To See 'Baby Jails: The Movie' Now
Remember that great big for-profit baby jail in Homestead, Florida, run by an outfit that hired John Kelly, Trump's former chief of staff, so he could do his part to punish migrant kids in the private sector? In August, the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement removed the remaining kids who'd been stored there, although it's likely to start warehousing unaccompanied minors there again this fall. And journalist Ken Klippenstein has acquired a doozy of a document in which a PR firm proposed a nifty propaganda video aimed at showing the kinder, gentler side of the notorious KinderKamp. (Yeah, it's Young Turks, but Klippenstein seems to have done his homework.)
While it's not clear whether the project ever went beyond the pitch stage, you just know the production would have been awesome, because the outfit behind the proposal is Qorvis Communications, the same Saudi-related lobbying group that brought veterans to stay in Trump's trash hotel in DC, so they could tell Congress to please oppose a bill the Saudis disliked. Compared to a gaslighting campaign to keep the Kingdom from getting sued for 9/11 liability, making a baby jail look like a summer camp must have seemed easy!
The proposal and script outline for a "4 to 5 minute video" emphasizes that this would be a feel-good video about the Homestead Shelter and the wonderful people there, aimed not at presenting "facts and figures," but instead providing "an inside look at the shelter and the hearts and minds of those inside." Gosh, that's a reassuring turn of phrase -- thankfully, the terms "domino theory," "light at the end of the tunnel," and "body count" don't appear in the proposal. Have to save something for the sequel.
The script sure aimed to paint a positive picture of the detention facility, which held about 14,300 migrant kids between March 2018 and last month, with room for up to 3,200 kids at a time. How's this for cinematic?
OPEN: We see exteriors of Homestead (HS). It is a former military base but we shoot it to capture as much beauty as possible. Early morning sun flares casting a glow on the buildings. A succession of shots goes from the lush trees between the dining facility and classroom to the buildings where the children live temporarily. Under that video we begin to hear a cacophony of voices from inside as the voice of a Homestead employee briefly introduces us to the shelter and explains its purpose.
Fact Check: the kids weren't actually housed in military parts of the Homestead Air Reserve Base. They were kept in a former Job Corps facility on the sprawling site -- not that it's any less of a jail. But it's lush and beautiful, you bet! The video would then cut to a graphic explaining that none of the kids held at Homestead had been taken from their parents, and "the goal is to reunited them with their families" [sic]. Ideally by deportation! And let's not forget reports that plenty of kids have been labeled "unaccompanied alien children" after being taken from parents or other family members when Border Patrol decided the families hadn't adequately proven they're related.
The script bumbles along, polishing the turd of child prisons as cheerfully as it can. Some parts even seem completely clueless as to the demographics of the baby jails' population, like this:
[W]e see a line of the backs of heads at sinks. Children are brushing their teeth. Our cameras capture tight shots of toothpaste going on brushes held by tiny hands. We hear and see tight shots of water running in the sink. We hear the natural sound of a Homestead caregiver gently urging the children to hurry because breakfast is ready. This scene is interspersed with a formal interview with someone from HS talking about the care and effort to make this a comfortable and safe place for the children.
"Tiny hands"? Most of the minors held at Homestead were 12 and up -- the population was mostly teenagers, who are more likely to be crossing the border alone in hopes of joining family members already here.
The script also suggests viewers will come away from the video feeling really good about the US's prolonged detention of kids at Homestead and other shelters, both because the goal is getting them back to their families, and because "the quality of care exceeds some of the situations these children have come from." The script also suggests maybe a HHS staffer could mention Homestead is way better than the hellholes run by the Border Patrol -- no kids standing around in their own filth here!
Maybe Qorvis could have inserted tape of Barbara Bush explaining, "so this is working out very well for them."
Other parts of the script emphasize the kids get educational opportunities and can even play soccer, what fun! -- at least if the funding isn't eliminated. Another suggested graphic points out that "many" of the educational staff even have "Bachelor's degrees," which may say a lot more about the crappy quality of the "educational opportunities" than intended.
Nothing seems to have come of the proposal, so sadly, we'll just have to visualize the beautiful closing shot, over the "jovial" sounds (yes, they wrote that) of kids having fun at Uncle Donald's Holiday Camp. After suggesting maybe the point about reuniting kids with their parents could be underlined with a shot of, again, "a small hand dialing a phone" and a scene, from behind, of the little tyke speaking Spanish over the phone (Literally "Hi, mom"), we bid a fond farewell to the tropical paradise and its exotic, happy residents:
Our cameras capture the exterior of Homestead as the day closes. The sun hangs over the facility. We see beauty shots of wind blowing through the trees. We are left with the idea that Homestead may not be these children's actual home but it is a safe space with people to care for them as they wait to get to their families.
And then Tucker Carlson would demand we stop giving these kids all that luxury spa treatment, we suppose.
Not surprisingly, Klippenstein couldn't get anyone at Qorvis or the company that runs Homestead to talk to him. The person named in the proposal as the producer for Qorvis has also locked her Twitter account. Some of the stuff in the script is so absurd we're tempted to dismiss it as a fake document, designed to troll reporters, but the silence from those involved is certainly suggestive. It's a shame, really -- this could have been the Trump administration's The Day the Clown Cried.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.