Donald Trump’s Plan To Detain Immigrant Children Indefinitely And Not Allow Vaccines Called ‘Ethnic Cleansing’

A group of child migrants in Texas.
John Moore / Getty Images

Donald Trump’s new plan to detain child immigrants indefinitely and without access to flu vaccines is being slammed as “ethnic cleansing in plain sight.”

As The Washington Post reported, the Trump administration is making moves to end the decades-old agreement that set a 20-day limit on holding immigrant children in detention centers, a move that could allow undocumented families to be held together indefinitely. The previous policy called for children to be released to parents, other adult relatives, or licensed programs as quickly as possible.

The Trump administration’s plan has come under fire, just as his administration’s policy of separating immigrant children from their families and placing them in detention centers did when it was first put in place earlier in Trump’s term. The administration has taken even more criticism for refusing to administer flu vaccines to the children in its custody. Customs and Border Protection issued a statement to CNBC saying that the “short-term” nature of immigrant holding made it impossible to administer the vaccines, despite a spate of flu infections among children being held in U.S. custody.

There have already been a number of migrant children who have died in U.S. custody, including ones who died after contracting the flu.

Matthew Cortland, writing a column for The Independent, said that the attempts to detain children indefinitely while also refusing them a flu vaccine amounts to “ethnic cleansing in plain sight.” Cortland added that the Trump administration is well aware of the long-term harm it is causing to children who are taken from their parents and placed in detention centers, but wrote that “the cruelty is the point.”

“I know that the Trump administration is aware of the overwhelming scientific evidence around trauma. When the administration first announced it was moving to terminate the Flores Settlement, I helped organize clinicians through Kids Don’t Belong in Jail to submit comments in response to the draft rules,” Cortland wrote. “Hundreds of highly qualified experts told the administration in excruciating detail the ways in which children would suffer life-long harm as a result of being imprisoned in immigration detention facilities. But this administration doesn’t care about the overwhelming epidemiological evidence.”

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Other experts have warned that there are significant health risks associated with detaining such a large number of people during flu season while denying them access to vaccines. One health care provider told NBC News that it appeared the Trump administration may be deliberately trying to create a public health emergency at detention centers with their new policies.