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Taken Away for a Bath? Families Ripped Apart by Border Patrol Lies

Border Patrol refuses to let senator see refugee children's detention facility conditions
Senator Jeff Merkey was denied entry to this child detention center in McAllen, Texas.

In McAllen, Texas, the Trump Administration’s war on immigrants has continued to rip parents away from their children. And, as the Boston Globe reports, there’s a new ugly Border Patrol tactic at play: Telling parents their children are going to be given a bath, only for their children to never return.

Many of these children are then shipped to foster families across the country. Their parents are often held in custody for months, and even if the foster families or lawyers try to track down the parents, Border Patrol agents frequently either refuse to provide information or offer only false or insubstantial information.

Not even congressional powers are enough to get accurate information at this point, nor are all of the children actually being cared for after they are separated from their parents. As Slate and others have reported, when Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) attempted to gain entrance to a Wal-Mart in Brownsville, Texas where refugee children were being detained by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (a story the Washington Post had the week previously broken), he was turned away by Homeland Security. When he persisted in trying to gain entrance to view the children’s living conditions, he was told he would be escorted away by police.

 

The cruel policy of separating parents from their children is intentional, and many in the Trump administration seem gleeful at the pain it causes families. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for instance, does not sympathize for separated families, saying in a radio interview last week, “If people don’t want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them…We’ve got to get this message out.”

This bravado is inconsistent, however, At other times, Trump acts as if it is not his policy responsible, tweeting repeatedly that Democrats were to blame—never mind that his administration controls both houses and the executive. When it comes to immigration policy and this administration, the lies seem endless, the obfuscation relentless, and the policy implementations deliberately cruel.

For instance, those caught entering the country illegally receive vastly different treatment in McAllen depending on whether or not they brought children with them. For almost all of those entering the country without children, they are sentenced time served—meaning they are deported, and that’s that.

For those who enter with children, however, their initial hearing is frequently just the beginning. The parents are at no point told where their children are, nor are their children (or their children’s caretakers) told where their parents are.

And for many of these parents, even after they serve time for the federal offense of crossing the border illegally, they are often held in ICE custody for months at a time. When information is shared, it is often faulty.

As the Globe reports,

In late May, separated parents in McAllen were given a number to call HHS and try to locate their children. It was the wrong number. Last week, parents were given a handwritten note telling them to call ICE — not HHS — if they wanted information about how to reunite with their children. But parents did not have access to phones at the time, rendering the number useless.

Is separating children from their parents really what making America great looks like? Or holding children in an abandoned Wal-Mart? Or giving false information to lawyers trying to track down their clients?

Yet all of these things are now the norm with Border Patrol and ICE.

Written by Matt Stebbins

Matt Stebbins is, with his wife, the co-founder of Endless Trails, a Pacific Northwest 501(c)3 trail advocacy non-profit, as well as a freelance writer and editor. Learn more at www.mattstebbins.com

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