Because The Baby Jails Were Too Cushy, Now It's Midnight Trains To Texas
In our "More immigration horror stories everyone saw coming" file today, there's this report from the New York Times that the Trump administration is dealing with its overcrowded baby jails for migrant kids by rousting hundreds of undocumented kids out of bed in the middle of the night and moving them from storage in Health and Human Services' baby jails system (shelters and group homes, usually run by nonprofits) into the federally run tent city outside Tornillo, Texas. While the kinderjails are bad enough, they're at least subject to state child welfare regulations and required to provide education, medical care (including some counseling) and access to legal help. The federally run facilities aren't subject to nearly as much regulation, although they're at least required to feed kids and provide basic medical care. Definitely a guideline about that somewhere.
And yes, this is all due to the shelter overcrowding the government created through deliberate policy decisions to Git Tough on all undocumented immigrants, especially the minors. Are we Great Again yet?
The NYT lede is chilling, and may become an icon of our great land in these hell years.
In shelters from Kansas to New York, hundreds of migrant children have been roused in the middle of the night in recent weeks and loaded onto buses with backpacks and snacks for a cross-country journey to their new home: a barren tent city on a sprawling patch of desert in West Texas.
Or maybe -- let's hope not -- that will someday seem excessively understated, should this country continue slipping down this slope into fascism. Even the framing details are very, very bad:
Until now, most undocumented children being held by federal immigration authorities had been housed in private foster homes or shelters, sleeping two or three to a room. They received formal schooling and regular visits with legal representatives assigned to their immigration cases.
But in the rows of sand-colored tents in Tornillo, Tex., children in groups of 20, separated by gender, sleep lined up in bunks. There is no school: The children are given workbooks that they have no obligation to complete. Access to legal services is limited.
Why are we doing this? There are actually two answers to that. The roughly 1600 kids moved so far are "unaccompanied alien children" -- kids who cross the border alone, and mostly over the age of 12 -- who up until recently would be held by HHS for a couple weeks, at most a month, until they could be placed with foster sponsors here in the US -- usually relatives. Ah, but the Trumpers considered that a "loophole" that wasn't punitive enough: Kids got out of government custody, and even worse, many of those sponsor families have undocumented members. So HHS began sharing information with ICE, which then started arresting thousands of them, and suddenly, nobody's coming to sponsor migrant kids. Oops, now the baby jails are filling up, because busybodies like the ACLU and the federal courts think these under-18 unpersons have "rights" and can't just be dumped across the border like during "Operation Wetback" -- though of course the Trumpers are working on that, too.
So that explains some of the shifting kids around. It's about making room in the shelters for more kids. But why are the transfers taking place in the middle of the night? Shelter workers anonymously told the Times it was all about keeping the livestock from stampeding:
In order to avoid escape attempts, the moves are carried out late at night because children will be less likely to try to run away. For the same reason, children are generally given little advance warning that they will be moved.
At one shelter in the Midwest whose occupants were among those recently transferred to Tornillo, about two dozen children were given just a few hours' notice last week before they were loaded onto buses — any longer than that, according to one of the shelter workers, and the children may have panicked or tried to flee.
Of course, if you're also creating a climate of fear and constant uncertainty, not to mention lifelong developmental harm, so much the better. If only we brutalize Them and their kids enough, eventually they'll stop coming, maybe, right? And if not, brutalizing Them is at least good for votes.
The Times notes the kids had emergency phone numbers written onto their belts, just as a way to give them some way of contacting someone, maybe. It's a step up from tattooing an ID number on their arms, we suppose. And the shelter workers who find themselves having to do all this aren't all that happy about it, which is why we're leaning about the midnight transfers in the first place:
Some staff members cried when they learned of the move, the shelter worker said, fearing what was in store for the children who had been in their care. Others tried to protest. But managers explained that tough choices had to be made to deal with the overflowing population.
Yes, and Himmler praised the courage of the SS men who unflinchingly did what had to be done, for the good of the homeland. The law is the law, and it must be upheld, you know. We have no choice. We have no choice.
This is, of course, a big difference of degree -- we're only deporting people, some to almost certain death, but not killing them ourselves, so our hands are quite clean. Besides, even though the kinderkamps aren't as cushy as the regular baby jails, they're not torturing anyone yet. The tents are air conditioned, and if the kids open those workbooks, they might learn something, and even best of all, the government is at least trying to make sure the Special Transports are only for kids who are close-ish to being either released or deported, so hurrah:
Rather than send new arrivals there, the government is sending children who are likely to be released sooner, and will spend less time there—mainly older children, ages 13 to 17, who are considered close to being placed with sponsors.
You know, at least, in ideal circumstances. There's room for improvement, maybe:
Still, because sponsorship placements are often protracted, immigrant advocates said there was a possibility that many of the children could be living in the tent city for months.
They should be OK, right? If you want to get all technical about it, yeah the psych literature shows that the younger the child and the longer the incarceration, the greater the trauma. And federal judges foolishly agree prolonged incarceration of migrant kids is all bad and stuff, even creating an unconstitutional level of trauma. As the Times story reminds us:
The longer that children remain in custody, the more likely they are to become anxious or depressed, which can lead to violent outbursts or escape attempts, according to shelter workers and reports that have emerged from the system in recent months.
Advocates said those concerns are heightened at a larger facility like Tornillo, where signs that a child is struggling are more likely to be overlooked, because of its size. They added that moving children to the tent city without providing enough time to prepare them emotionally or to say goodbye to friends could compound trauma that many are already struggling with.
HHS officials know this shit is bad, but bleeding heart liberals also say that, so please ignore the warnings, OK? Remember, the official line is that there's no one to blame for any lasting damage these kids experience but themselves and their irresponsible parents, for sending them alone across the border. We MUST enforce all the laws, no matter how much it fucks children up.
Besides, getting a pass on bad behavior is for Supreme Court nominees who made mistakes when they were fine young men in high school. All others must pay, forever.
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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.