Locked together with a group of children inside a chain-link cage, a 16-year-old immigrant was forced to become the caretaker for a 4-year-old girl so paralyzed by fear that she couldn’t speak and spent the entire time curled in a ball.
The Associated Press this weekend reported on the conditions inside one of the government’s detainment centers, where the children of immigrants are being sent after being separated from their parents. Donald Trump’s administration has come under attack for the new policy that requires children to be taken from their parents who cross the border, even those entering the United States legally to seek asylum.
Donald Trump has blamed Democrats, saying it is their law, but he has not pointed to any specific law and his claims are contradicted by other members of his administration who said publicly it is their policy to separate children from their parents. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said on a number of occasions that they were implementing the policy as a deterrent to stop people from crossing the border.
The Associated Press report found traumatizing conditions, with children huddled together inside chain-link cages with no toys or books, and staff who yelled at a group of 5-year-old children for playing together in one of the cages. One of the most striking examples came from Michelle Brane, the director of migrant rights at the Women’s Refugee Commission.
Brane described meeting a 16-year-old girl who was forced out of necessity to take care of a young girl for three days. The younger girl, who came to America from Guatemala, was part of the indigenous people speaking the K’iche language, and could not communicate. The teenager and others thought the girl was 2 years old, but she was actually 4 and was catatonic with fear after being taken from her aunt. The 16-year-old girl assumed care of the girl, having to teach the other children in their cage how to change the girl’s diaper to take care of her, Brane said.
“She was so traumatized that she wasn’t talking,” Brane said. “She was just curled up in a little ball.”
The incident took place inside a converted warehouse in South Texas, where children are being held in a series of cages, some with up to 20 children inside.
Brane was furious with the conditions.
“The government is literally taking kids away from their parents and leaving them in inappropriate conditions,” Brane said. “If a parent left a child in a cage with no supervision with other 5-year-olds, they’d be held accountable.”
Other reports have painted a similar picture in these facilities. The Los Angeles Times spoke to a worker who quit one of the facilities and described the harsh and inhumane conditions, which even led some of the children being detained to attempt suicide.
The 4-year-old girl mentioned in the Associated Press story was reunited with her aunt after officials found that they were in the same facility.