A legal battle for the basic human rights of migrants has been unfolding in a courtroom in San Francisco. Last week, a deeply incredulous panel of federal appeals court judges heard argument from a Trump administration attorney regarding the treatment of migrants currently in detention.
During the hearing, the administration claimed that as long as the facilities were “safe and sanitary,” the U.S. government “is not legally required to provide all of them with such items as soap, toothbrushes and sleeping accommodations,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
On Monday, NBC News reported that some 300 children have been removed from a concentration camp in Clint, Texas after advocates and media reports raised alarms about the wretched conditions these children were housed in. “Some were wearing dirty clothes covered in mucus or even urine,” reported NBC. “Teenage mothers wore clothing stained with breast milk. None of the children had access to soap or toothpaste.”
“Virtually no one is taking care of these children directly, that they are locked up in these cells 24 hours a day,” reports Democracy NOW! on the Clint facility. “There are open toilets in many of these cells. There’s no soap, no way to wash their hands. And many of them are being forced to sleep on concrete because of a shortage of beds and mats and sleeping space. Children described sleeping on concrete floors.”
Clearly, the Trump administration was unwilling to wait for a judicial ruling on whether migrant children detained in concentration camps deserve soap, toothpaste and cots. The facility in Clint is but one of many currently housing migrants and asylum seekers.
The horror stories caused by Trump’s immigration policies were coming at a furious clip well before the abuse at the Clint facility was revealed, and before his Friday declaration that “millions” of migrants would be deported beginning on Sunday. Children as young as eight are being forced to care for toddlers in the concentration camps after all were removed from their parents. Four visibly ill toddler-age children being held at the camp in McAllen, Texas, were denied medical care until lawyers intervened.
The fact that Trump temporarily backed off on his threat of raids, as he also did with his Mexico tariffs and an attack on Iran, does not mitigate the fears he unleashed within communities all across the country.
“The effect is terror,” immigrant advocate Emilio Amaya told The Los Angeles Times. “We’re getting call after call after call. There is a lot of fear.” Upon Trump’s Friday announcement, immigrant advocacy groups and other activists were scrambling to prepare for the looming raids, instructing people of their rights, how to protest the policy, and the ways they can help protect migrants.
These activists are not standing down, even with the two weeks Trump gave Congress to cobble together a “solution to the Asylum and Loophole problems at the Southern Border,” as the president wrote on Twitter. He warned, “If not, Deportations start!”
To make matters worse, funding for humanitarian aid for migrants at the border is hung up in Congress. Some Democratic House members justly fear the Trump administration will take whatever money is allocated and use it to fund the kind of mass deportation effort he has been threatening.
A House vote on an aid package is scheduled for today, but if lawmakers place restrictions on the Trump administrations use of the funding — no mass deportations, for example — the White House has threatened to veto the package. Congressional Republicans are, of course, standing with Trump. To know Trump is to know he may swing back to mass raids at any moment if it serves to disrupt the narrative.
This administration’s persecution of people at the southern border is beyond intolerable. It displays a long-evident truth: Trump and those who surround him aren’t simply disregarding the basic human rights of migrants — they don’t think they should have any. They do not regard migrants as human at all. We must face this as a nation, and find a way to push our elected representatives into providing more than lip service to the people, including so many children, who are suffering at this very moment.
Donald Trump wants to please his base while distracting the press from the actions of his brutal administration, and it must end. These concentration camps show us this government is, as ever, firmly on the wrong side of history.
Update: According to a Tuesday afternoon New York Times report, more than 100 children have been returned to the Clint, Texas concentration camp after having been removed from that same facility earlier this week due to deplorable conditions. The report also notes that the acting head of the Customs and Border Protection agency, John Sanders, will be stepping down from his position in early July. The chaos continues.