The New Cruelty is about to kick into high gear with the government’s fun new plan to separate migrant parents from their kids, because apparently America’s treatment of undocumented immigrants just hasn’t been terrible enough. Jeff Sessions announced last week that all illegal border crossers will now be charged with “improper entry by an alien,” a misdemeanor, and their kids will be taken away at least until the parents’ first court hearing, maybe until trial if the parents aren’t allowed bail. The government is now looking at military bases as one option to handle the thousands of kids who’ll need to be warehoused, as the Washington Post reported yesterday evening.
According to an email notification sent to Pentagon staffers, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will make site visits at four military installations in Texas and Arkansas during the next two weeks to evaluate their suitability to shelter children.
The bases would be used for minors under 18 who arrive at the border without an adult relative or after the government has separated them from their parents. HHS is the government agency responsible for providing minors with foster care until another adult relative can assume custody.
Specifically, that would be HHS’s Administration for Children and Families (ACF), which released a statement saying only that
its programs require “routinely evaluating the needs and capacity of an existing network of approximately 100 shelters in 14 states.”
“Additional properties with existing infrastructure are routinely being identified and evaluated by federal agencies as potential locations for temporary sheltering,” the statement said.
The actual housing of migrant kids is handled by ACF’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) — regardless of whether they’re classified as refugees — if you want to keep the org chart straight. WaPo spoke to an HHS official who wanted to stay anonymous because no official decisions have been announced yet; that official said current shelter facilities can house 10,571 children, and are already at 91 percent of of capacity. The official also said HHS hadn’t projected how many more migrant kids are likely to need housing due to the new arrest-everybody policy, but WaPo points out that the demographics of people crossing the border has shifted in the last few years from mostly Mexican men seeking work to a much higher proportion of women with children or entire families fleeing gangs and violence in Central America. But they’re all brown, so as John Kelly said last week, they need to be treated like criminals to keep them from polluting America with their dangerous foreignness.
But don’t worry! The kids — including babies of course — will only be torn from their families for a relatively short time, probably just long enough to be traumatized for life:
Children held in HHS custody spend an average of 45 days in the government’s care, the HHS official said, and they are provided with educational and recreational opportunities. The agency conducts background checks on potential sponsors for the minors, and in 85 percent of cases the children are released to a parent or other adult relative already present in the United States, the official said.
Assuming HHS doesn’t lose track of any of the kids.
WaPo notes that if military bases are chosen as sites for migrant-kid storage, what wouldn’t be entirely unprecedented, since the Obama administration also housed some 7,000 minors at bases for several months during the peak of the 2014 influx of unaccompanied minors fleeing Central America. A Pentagon spokesperson also explained that in the past, HHS reimbursed the Defense Department for the use of space at the bases, and the military wasn’t directly involved in the kids’ care.
So don’t go getting all het up about this looking like the sort of thing some third-world hellhole would do. These will be strictly first-world hellholes, although the kids certainly shouldn’t expect to have WiFi.
Or, if they’re underage girls who’ve been raped, access to an abortion. Nothing to do with military bases: ORR’s anti-abortion director, Scott Lloyd, would try to restrict abortions for girls held at any shelter subject to ORR’s tender mercies. Shall we remind you once more that Mr. Lloyd is an attorney who has exactly zero experience working with refugees, or for that matter with immigrants of any sort? (He did, however, advocate for Christians persecuted by ISIS in Iraq, so close enough for Trump.)
Maybe HHS could reopen some of the camps used to house interned Japanese-Americans during WW II and stick the immigrant kids there. They’ve just been cluttering up the National Parks System as monuments to what happens when a nation goes paranoid and loses its mind. Obviously nobody learned anything from the example, so we may as well re-use the space.
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