Imagine you’re a parent of a six-year-old girl and you live somewhere that’s erupted in violence. You decide to risk the nearly 2,000 mile journey to bring your family to safety in the United States. You get the proper paperwork, you show up in the proper place, and you present yourself to the proper authorities. Then, your child is taken from you and tossed into a detention center. You have no way to contact her, and the only news that gets to you are the reports of abuse she’s received. One woman is living that nightmare, and it’s all because of the Trump administration’s disgusting family separation policy.
Recently, a six-year-old girl who had been taken from her mother under Trump’s monstrous family separation policy was sexually abused in the detention center where she’s being held. Workers at the center made the girl (known only as “D.L.”) sign her name to a form indicating that she knew she was responsible for staying away from her abuser who was an older child in the same detention facility.
D.L. and her mother came here legally and did everything by the book. They entered the United States at an official point of entry and claimed asylum, giving Border Patrol agents paperwork citing their credible fear of returning to the violence in Guatemala.
Where they should have been met with open arms, they were instead met with Trump’s policy of stripping children from their parents as a way to deter asylum seekers through cruelty. D.L.’s parents were told of the abuse and her mother, still being detained in a separate facility, was devastated.
“I felt really horrible. I couldn’t do anything for her, because we were separated,” D.L.’s mother told The Nation through a translator. “It was a nightmare. When my husband told me what happened, I felt helpless. She was so little, she was probably so scared, probably afraid to say anything to anyone. It was a total nightmare for me.”
It gets worse. A second, more violent incident occurred after the first and the detention center notified D.L.’s father, an undocumented man living in the United States, was notified and when he demanded answers the detention center employee told him they weren’t allowed to tell him anything except the news his daughter had, once again, been abused.
The immigrant rights group Families Belong Together was eventually able to help reunite this family, but the girl was still suffering from the effects of living in a detention facility. Her mother says she behaved like she was “programmed.”
“I hugged her, I was crying. She didn’t recognize me,” her mother said. “She told me that she thought I was never going to be with her again and that she was going to have to live with another lady. She behaved like she was still in detention. She wouldn’t touch me, hug me, or kiss me.”
“She didn’t know I was her mom. She thought I was another social worker,” she added. “She says, ‘Please don’t return me to Guatemala, I don’t want to go back to that place where I have to sleep alone with the other kids.’”
After news of the abuse broke, congressional Democrats are demanding answers, an end to the policy, and even Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s resignation.
The Trump administration has tried to claim their draconian family separation policy is necessary to keep kids from being trafficked, but children accompanied by adults who aren’t their parents represent only a tiny sliver of those seeking asylum in the United States. Instead, the United States government is doing the trafficking, placing children in harms way without their parents or adequate supervision and at the mercy of abusers.
According to Lisa Fortuna, the director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Boston Medical Center, Trump’s child internment camps are ripe for abuse, not just by other children but the adults who work there. “If you’re a predator, it’s a gold mine,” she told ProPublica. “You have full access and then you have kids that have already had this history of being victimized.”
Today, there are still over 700 children who haven’t been reunited with their families and the Trump administration missed yet another deadline to do so last week despite being ordered to by a federal judge.
h/t: The Nation