CHILDREN WEARING clothes filthy with snot and tears and food. Children locked in cells nearly all day long, sleeping on cold concrete floors. No windows. Always hungry. No toothbrushes, toothpaste or soap. Children alone, even the littlest among them.
These are the conditions in which hundreds of immigrant children are being held at Customs and Border Protection facilities along the U.S. border. Most pets get better treatment. The United States should be horrified and demand that the president and Congress take action, immediately, to provide humane care for these vulnerable young people.
Concern about the conditions in which migrant children are held intensified after the Associated Press reported on the findings of a group of lawyers who visited a detention facility in Clint, Tex., in which 250 infants, children and teenagers were being held. “It’s the worst conditions I have ever witnessed in several years of doing these inspections,” said W. Warren Binford, one of the lawyers, recounting the lack of adequate access to food, water and medicine; the minimal adult supervision, and the presence of lice and flu. News reports Monday evening indicated hundreds of children had been moved out of that facility, but the administration’s responses inspired little confidence that they would be treated better elsewhere.
“We’re doing a fantastic job under the circumstances,” President Trump had the temerity to say on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. He and Vice President Pence, appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” sought to put the blame on congressional Democrats for any problems. “If the Democrats would change the asylum laws and the loopholes, which they refuse to do because they think it’s good politics, everything would be solved immediately. But they refuse to do it,” Mr. Trump said.
Congress shares in the blame for its failure to address some of the issues that have led to an increase in illegal border crossings. It also has failed to act, after appropriating $400 million in February, on a larger supplemental spending bill to cope with the surge in migrants. A Senate version of the bill is headed to the floor with bipartisan support, but its future in the House is unclear. Some House Democrats, using the hashtags #NotOneDollar and #CloseTheCamps, have come out against additional funding because they think it will help advance the administration’s immigration and detention policies. Such thinking is irresponsible; children are hurting. Congress should provide the needed resources and then closely monitor how the money is spent.
But if congressional action is irresponsible, it is also understandable, given the contemptuous way Mr. Trump speaks of migrants; his loathsome policy of family separation last year; his current lies about that policy; and his constant use of fear, threats and ultimatums in place of an effort to work toward immigration reform. First and foremost, he is responsible for how these children are being treated. The U.S. government should be capable of providing toothbrushes, soap, showers and safe and humane shelter for these most vulnerable human beings.