Cos (cos) wrote,

What's happening to children at the border

Several different stories hit the news last week about the border patrol and related agencies doing awful things to children, and now is an excellent time to do something about it while it's in the news and there's a lot of public outrage. But I also see a lot of confusion because these different stories all got reported at once, so first I want to disentangle it a bit. Here are the three main stories about this from last week:
  1. An ACLU report revealed many cases of abuse of children who had arrived at the border unacompannied - including threats, denial of medical care, and physical violence. This is not new; the ACLU report is based on document from 2014 and earlier. What's new is that they just published the report, after taking a while to get the documents from the government in the first place, then read and analyze them all. One of the things they stress in the report is a "culture of impunity" in Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), meaning these abuses will continue.

  2. The Trump administration has a new policy of forcibly separating families who arrive at the border together, something they had been doing sporadically for a while and are now doing systematically. Even very young children are forcibly taken from their parents and imprisoned separately.

  3. A story about 1475 "missing" children. However, most of them, maybe all, are probably not actually "missing". These are children who arrived at the border unaccompanied, in the past. They were transferred to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR - a part of the Dept of Health and Human Services), whose job was to find sponsors for them to live with, often while waiting for their immigration cases to be processed. ORR tries to find a relative living in the US to place them with, but when no relative can be found, they may place kids in temporary shelters. ORR did a cursory survey of about 7500 kids that had been placed with sponsors or shelters in recent years, and did not get responses or accurate up to date information about 1475 of them. Most or all of those kids are probably living with relatives, and many may not want to be contacted or found by the government.

  4. As a result of the "missing" children story, another news story from several years ago came back: In 2016 it was discovered that one of those temporary shelters has placed some children with human traffickers in 2014. This was during a huge wave of unacompannied minors arriving at the border, due to a surge in violence in several Central American countries; the system was overwhelmed, and they weren't doing thorough enough checks on who children got placed with. After this story broke in 2016, reforms were made to vet placements better, but also, the wave of unaccompanied minors slowed down, so they got less overwhelmed. (Although if this new policy of separating kids from parents also turns into transferring them to ORR, maybe they'll get overwhelmed again?)

Hearing about all of these all at once led to a lot of confusion, which could misdirect anger in unproductive directions, when there's a lot of reason for anger. One understandable and common misunderstanding was "they're taking children away from their parents and losing track of them and placing some of them with traffickers!" Nobody has reported such a thing happening.

Also, the "missing" children aren't a problem, per se. It used to be that ORR was explicitly told *not* to cooperate with immigration enforcement, to make it easier for them to find relatives to place children with - relatives who may be scared of dealing with immigration. But the Trump administration has changed that, so that now, if ORR can find these children, it may deport some of them, or deport their sponsors, or someone else living with them. Many of them now have very good reason not to want to be found. So the fact that ORR's very low-effort survey ended up with "we don't know" for 1475 kids doesn't mean much.

Misunderstandings aside, there are horrible things in this news. Most importantly,
  • Children and parents are being forcibly separated at the border!

  • Abuses like the ones that happened until 2014, are likely still happening.

Thase are the things to organize about now!

Begin by calling both of your Senators and your US Representative ASAP.
You can look up their numbers by state at and by ZIP code at

Pick one of the above for your call. Either tell them it's immoral and inexcusable to forcibly separate families at the border, and they should demand the CBP stop doing that, or tell them you're horrified at the stories of abuse of unaccompanied children by the CBP and they need to put in place effective policies to prevent it.

The next day, call them all again, but this time about the issue you didn't call about the first time.

Next, find people you know in other states and districts - especially ones represented by Republicans, who need the most convincing and are the ones most in a position to do something about this - and urge them to call. One by one, text or email or call your friends and ask them to call.

Donate to a bunch of groups working to help kids at the border:

Plan to attend a March for Stolen Children on June 14th.

Crossposted from Dreamwidth - link to original post (comment count unavailable comments on DW)

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