Nice Time! US Won't Open Baby Jail At Guantanamo! (Yet)
As part of its effort to imprison as many asylum seekers as inhumanly possible, the Trump administration briefly considered housing arrested migrant kids at the US military base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the New York Timesreports. That is, of course, insane. And for once, the administration didn't go with the completely insane option, so let's all be thankful for small mercies, while remembering that with this crowd, no terrible idea ever really goes away, so that's one more awful possibility for which we now need to keep an eye on the bastards.
In an article on overcrowding in federal immigration detention facilities due to both increased arrivals of asylum seekers and Trump's devotion to jailing as many as he can get away with, the Times explains,
In one initiative examined earlier this year, Department of Homeland Security officials looked at housing migrant children at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which has a dormitory facility that has been used in the past to hold asylum seekers.
As for why that plan was dropped, the insider who spoke to the Times really attributes more capacity for shame to this administration than it deserves:
The proposal to house migrant children from the Southwest border [in Gitmo] has not gained traction, perhaps because of the optics of housing young people adjacent to terrorism suspects, according to one official who had seen the proposal but was not authorized to discuss it publicly.
That is a really funny joke! As if Stephen Miller and his Band of Merry Creeps have ever worried about "optics"! Also, yet another symptom of the crazy shit that's become normal in the last two years: The Pentagon wouldn't even deny the option had been considered.
While there were no "immediate" plans to house migrant children at Guantánamo Bay, the Defense Department is attempting to identify military bases that might be used for that purpose, a department spokesman, Tom Crosson, said on Monday.
Just no immediate plans! How very reassuring! The military has already "awarded a $23 million contract in February to build a 'contingency mass migration complex' at Guantánamo," capable of holding up to 13,000 migrants and 5,000 staff in a tent city. Supposedly, that facility would be reserved for people fleeing some still-hypothetical crisis in the Caribbean, although the Times points out "it could theoretically be used to house Central Americans."
Not mentioned in the story but always a consideration when we're talking about Gitmo: Are the fuckers thinking that housing migrant kids on an island military base leased from Cuba would place them beyond US law and its pesky limits on how long children can be detained? It would be irresponsible not to speculate.
Beyond that holy shit! Gitmo detail, the article examines the growing problem the New Cruelty is having with finding enough places to imprison asylum seekers and other immigrants the administration wants to deport. While it's true that in recent months, the number of Central Americans arriving at the border has reached a decade-long high, the Trump policy of detaining everyone has been one of the biggest drivers in the shortage of long-term detention space. As the Times notes,
ICE is currently housing 50,223 migrants, one of the highest numbers on record, and about 5,000 more than the congressionally mandated limit of 45,274.
In 2016, President Obama's last year in office, the average daily population of immigrants in detention dipped to 34,376.
And now on top of that, Attorney General William Barr has directed that even more asylum seekers be imprisoned until their cases are adjudicated, which is likely to add thousands more detainees to long-term detention. Barr very generously pushed the effective date of his order back by 90 days so ICE could find more room -- for all we know, at dark sites in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.
Ever optimistic that the USA can become cruel enough, a DHS press officer told the Times Barr's order might actually ease crowding in ICE facilities by "deterring" people from seeking asylum. Exactly like taking children from their parents didn't.
Non-insane people keep pointing out that the reason the detention system is filling up is quite simple: Trump and Miller want it that way, so it can claim it's ending "catch and release" of immigrants.
"[It] is a choice to jail asylum seekers, and it is a choice that is at odds with international human rights norms," said Heidi Altman, director of policy at the National Immigrant Justice Center.
Ms. Altman pointed to case management programs that have been used in the past to ensure that immigrants show up for court. Studies have shown that the programs are both cheaper than detention and have a proven track record of near universal court compliance.
Thanks for trying, Ms. Altman! We keep pointing at that Family Case Management program, too, although it's very important to note that while it made sure 99 percent of participants made it to their immigration hearings, it was also a very bad program because 1) it was put in place by Barack Obama and 2) it still let people have asylum hearings, which Trump would rather get rid of all together.
Still, the current crowding problem has had one not-horrible side effect: Since there are now so many single adult asylum seekers and other migrants being held, families in detention are now even more likely to be released pending their hearings. After all, there's no Flores agreement limiting how long single adults can be imprisoned!
Because most migrant families are being released to await the outcome of their asylum cases, ICE's three family detention centers are largely empty now. Facilities certified to house families only have a capacity of about 2,500 people, in any case. Currently, 675 members of migrant families are being detained in one of those facilities in Dilley, Tex. A second one in Karnes City, Tex., has been converted to house adults, to help with overcrowding elsewhere. And the third in Leesport, Pa., is empty.
So ... yay?
[NYT / Christian Science Monitor / National Immigrant Justice Center]
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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.