Discover more from Wonkette
US Now Separating Kids From School, Lawyers, Soccer, And Medicine
Are we the baddies? We just might be the baddies.
The Trump administration, having created a humanitarian crisis by attempting to jail all asylum-seekers forever, is now making conditions in its baby jails even worse. You see, now there are so many unaccompanied minors -- mostly teens who cross the border without a parent or guardian -- that the Department of Health and Human Services has announced it can no longer afford to provide kids held in its shelters with any education, legal assistance, or even recreation, which usually meant an hour outside playing soccer. Never mind that those are all mandated by a 1997 court settlement that sets minimum standards for the care of minors -- the administration wants more money to pursue its war on asylum seekers, so the kids will have to go without.
Do Children 'Need' Education Or Exercise?
The Washington Post broke the story last night, and it's appalling. HHS's Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which is responsible for housing minors until they can be placed with a sponsor in the US, usually a family member,
has begun discontinuing the funding stream for activities — including soccer — that have been deemed " not directly necessary for the protection of life and safety, including education services, legal services, and recreation," said Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Mark Weber.
Weber explained there was simply no other option than to ignore legally mandated services, you see, since the agency has to pare back only to "essential" services. That's a bit of a problem under the 1997 Flores agreement, which requires shelter programs to provide services beyond a bed, food, and water. Among other requirements, ORR-contracted shelters must provide
education services and communication skills, English language training, recreation and leisure time, and access to social work staff and counseling sessions.
Carlos Holguin, who represents minors covered under Flores, told the Post the service cuts are quite simply illegal:
"We'll see them in court if they go through with it," Holguin said. "What's next? Drinking water? Food? . . . Where are they going to stop?"
Others involved in enforcing Flores, like psychiatrist Amy Cohen, who consults with the legal team and examines kids in shelters, came close to saying the cuts would amount to abuse of children in government care. Cohen told the New York Times,
To those of us whose job it is to promote the health and safety of children, this is a shocking directive. [...] It violates every tenet of basic child welfare practice and will further harm the medical and psychological health of children fleeing extraordinarily dangerous circumstances in their home countries.
Well, sure, but isn't that the point? If the USA becomes a violator of human rights, then no one will want to seek asylum here.
Even though the number of migrants has definitely increased, the Trump administration has made matters far worse.
Critics of the plan to reduce services said costs had been driven up because children were being held for protracted periods of time, instead of being released to family or friends. The current length of stay, ranging from about 50 to 75 days, is twice as long as it was during the Obama years, according to Dr. Cohen.
"I have interviewed children held for more than a year despite a fully competent and willing family sponsor," Dr. Cohen said. "I interviewed an increasingly desperate child who'd been there for four months despite having a close, safe relative fully prepared to take her."
And remember, even beyond those restrictions, ORR is now sharing all its information with ICE, so families wanting to get kids out of the baby jails face arrest of any undocumented members, which means fewer sponsors are coming forward.
But treating all asylum seekers like criminals only makes sense, because Donald Trump is all about "toughness," even -- or especially -- when it comes to children, who are all MS-13 thugs anyway . Remember: "They look so innocent. They're not innocent."
So far, one of the largest operators of shelters for unaccompanied minors, BCFS Health and Human Services, intends to keep providing classes and recreation for kids at its own cost, the Times reports.
"We have not and we are not going to curtail recreation and education. We just can't do that," said Kevin Dinnin, president of BCFS, the second-largest shelter network, which houses about 1,000 children in facilities in Texas. "We will have to use reserve funds until the government figures out what they are going to do."
However, the largest nonprofit shelter network, Southwest Key, is another matter, according to WaPo:
Joella Brooks, interim CEO of Southwest Key Programs, which shelters hundreds of minors in Texas and other states, told staff in an email obtained by The Post that she is working with the government "to understand the reasons behind this decision and what, if anything, we can do to continue offering these vital services."
"In the meantime, remember the service, encouragement and compassion you provide to these youth every day matters a great deal," she wrote. "Please continue to stay focused on taking good care of them."
Not exactly a hell of a commitment there, huh? Be encouraging and compassionate, but let's not go overboard like that other outfit. Southwest Key, you'll recall, operates that great big baby jail in the former Walmart in Brownsville, Texas; the nonprofit came under scrutiny last year because of a whole raft of controversies that led to the resignation of its well-compensated CEO, Juan Sanchez, in March of this year.
We Must Protect Children From Their Own Medication
In separate news of the horrors being visited upon asylum seekers, Yahoo News brings us this story about the Border Patrol's practice of seizing all medications from the people it takes into custody -- even prescription meds for serious conditions. According to multiple doctors providing healthcare to migrants after they've been released from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody, the Border Patrol routinely confiscates medications when the migrants are placed in holding facilities for processing.
Now, CBP insists this is for the health and safety of the detainees, because who in their right mind would let illegals smuggle their drugs into jail with them? One CBP official explained that's just good sense:
"You can imagine a migrant or an alien comes across and maybe they have a bag or just a pocket full of pills and they say 'Oh, this is for my high blood pressure,'" the CBP official told Yahoo News. "There's no way of knowing what that is. It could be an illicit substance. It could be something that some unlicensed provider gave them on the other side of the border. It could be dangerous, it could be harmful" [...]
Once the migrant receives a diagnosis and a U.S. prescription, the official said, Border Patrol agents will then fill the prescription and dispense medication accordingly. "We do not have the migrants self-medicating while they're in holding."
The official insisted that all CBP facilities very definitely follow the agency's internal guidelines, which specify that anyone taken into detention with prescription meds from outside the USA "should have the medication validated by a medical professional, or should be taken in a timely manner to a medical practitioner to obtain an equivalent U.S. prescription." That's absolutely followed all the time, said the official, who also said claims that agents routinely confiscate meds and then deny medical help are "clearly not true." What's more, he said,
It's actually going above and beyond in terms of ensuring the safety and the security and also the medical appropriateness of the prescriptions and the dosing of the medicine.
But several doctors who work with migrants that have been released by CBP say otherwise:
"That's bulls***," said Dr. Carlos Gutierrez in response to the CBP official's comments. "He's lying to you."
Gutierrez is an El Paso, Texas-based pediatrician who provides regular volunteer medical care to asylum seekers at various shelters throughout the Texas border city.
"You can ask providers who care for them day in and day out," he continued. "We know that the medicines are taken away."
Gutierrez cited a recent case where he examined a 10-year-old girl with a genetic disorder, congenital adrenal hyperplasia, for which patients need steroids every day to help them fight off infections. When the girl was detained, her meds were taken away, and no, she was not given an exam to get her a diagnosis and replacement:
"This was a little walking time bomb," said Gutierrez, estimating that the girl had been in custody for about a week before he saw her. He was able to provide her with enough of her steroid medication to last a week.
"That could've been a potentially deadly situation, taking away stuff like that from a child," he said. "They can get by OK," as long as they're healthy. "But any infection or cold, it'll kill them."
"Fortunately, she was well, but if she had picked up strep or pneumonia without meds, she probably would've died en route," he said — not an improbable scenario given how common such illnesses are among those Gutierrez sees after they're released from custody.
All five of the pediatricians Yahoo talked to confirmed that they
regularly see migrants with chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma, seizures and high blood pressure, for which they claim to have had medication that was confiscated while [in CBP custody] and neither returned nor replaced. It happens more frequently to adults, who are more likely to be on such medications in the first place, but doctors said they've been hearing similar reports from increasing numbers of children or their parents.
Another of the doctors, Lisa Ayoub-Rodriguez, who belongs to the American Academy of Pediatrics Immigrant Health Special Interest Group and helps coordinate MDs volunteering in the El Paso area, had this horror story:
Just last week, Ayoub-Rodriguez said an 11-year-old girl in Border Patrol custody with respiratory issues was brought to an El Paso hospital, where she received prescription medications along with a backpack and some coloring books that had been donated by members of the community. When she was returned to the Border Patrol processing center, however, the backpack had been confiscated and later that day the girl was readmitted to the hospital.
"The nurse who discharged her said her prescriptions were in the backpack, and then we were told the backpack was taken away," said Ayoub-Rodriguez
Just preventing those children from self-medicating with prescriptions from an American hospital, prescribed by an American doctor, and after the American nurse told CBP about the meds in the girl's backpack. That should probably come as news to the CBP source who insisted to Yahoo that "No one pays more attention and interest and is more dedicated to the health and well-being and the safety and security of the migrants in our custody than Border Patrol."
There's more, but we're just about at the limits of our own blood pressure, frankly. Our leaders are monsters who hire monsters to treat human beings monstrously.
Oh, but if you'd like to treat people monstrously, this singularly badly-targeted ad popped up next to the Yahoo News story: CBP is hiring people who are dedicated to serving others.
It's a cookbook.
Yr Wonkette is entirely funded by reader donations. Help us convert our rage into writing, and together we can end this madness.