President Trump isn’t exactly well-known for his compassion toward immigrant populations, but a new regulation announced last week has reached a shocking new level of cruelty. The “Flores agreement,” a 1997 court settlement, prevents migrant children from being detained by the government for more than 20 days. The settlement aims to reduce further emotional damage, but a new regulation is attempting to overturn this limit, allowing the government to hold migrant children indefinitely, in blatant disregard to their human rights.
Trump’s policy will also remove states’ authority to license family detention facilities and prevent lawyers, who are mandated by the Flores agreement to oversee the conditions in centers where children are detained, from entering those centers.
According to Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, migrant children will still be “universally treated with dignity, respect, and special concern in concert with American values” and housed in facilities that are “campus-like” with recreational activities, cushioned seats and three meals a day. However, one can easily see beyond these empty words and instead consider the detainment centers closer to the border, where children have slept on pads on concrete floors and received abysmal medical care. Customs and Border Protection has recently announced it will not vaccinate those in its facilities, a cruel decision considering three children have died of the flu this year in American detention centers. Thus, one can conclude the Trump administration does not care about the well-being of immigrants or respect them as human beings.
While the mortality rate in these glorified concentration camps may seem low, this statistic does not include the lasting impact of these centers on migrants’ (especially childrens’) mental health. Research performed by the Australian Human Rights Commission has discovered the level of mental health problems experienced by children in detention centers increases with time spent in these facilities. According to the study, about 85 percent of children and parents reported that their mental health was adversely affected by their detention.
While the voices of intolerant nativists have a strong grip on the White House, we are not helpless against these new regulations, and many are choosing to express this power. California Governor Gavin Newsom has called the overturn of the Flores agreement “unconscionable” and announced that 19 states and the District of Columbia are filing a lawsuit to prevent the new policy from becoming a reality. The effort, led by California and Massachusetts, involves government officials from across the nation.
It is vital that we speak out against the atrocious actions of the Trump administration and pressure those in authority to represent these issues on a larger scale. Immigration regulation is a highly polarizing issue, but in a time when the protection of fellow human beings is at stake America must strive to curb the theatrics of politics and truly think about each individual issue to come to a decision fueled by empathy, rather than fear or division. The officials currently involved in the lawsuit are all Democrats.
Republicans should not feel isolated by this, but rather encouraged to join in the protection of immigrants’ rights. This will only be achieved if people are willing to think critically about their officials’ claims. It does not make sense to strip immigrant children of their rights in the fear that they will be used by their parents as “get-out-of-jail-free” cards, so to speak, under the Flores agreement. Such claims, which have plagued politics for centuries in an effort to control inherently caring people, put up walls of ignorance that often keep Americans from seeing the human beings on the other side.
Katherine Lee is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org