Responding to the Inhumane Treatment of Migrant Children

Clint border control facility

There is no video, no audio, and not a single photograph from inside Clint Border Patrol Station in West Texas. Anything that would provide indisputable evidence of the plight of these 350 desperate migrant children is strictly forbidden. Words would have to suffice.

In this case, words were enough. A team of attorneys and medical personnel on a rare and court-sanctioned visit interviewed 50 of the child inmates last week. Their report of the conditions they found would shock even the most hardened heart.

Children left dirty, hungry and thirsty, fending for themselves and for toddlers and babies inexplicably placed in their care. Children denied the basic necessities of soap, showers, toothbrushes, and bedding. Children forced to sleep in crowded, flood-lit cells on ice-cold cement floors. Children forced to share the same comb to rid themselves of head lice.

And then we heard more words, as government attorneys stood in front of a panel of bewildered federal judges and brazenly argued that the provision of adequate toiletries and sleeping conditions was beyond the “safe and sanitary” requirement imposed on temporary detention facilities.

Across America, people reacted swiftly, with disbelief, outrage and action. Groups immediately began collecting donations, snacks and toiletries to deliver to these beleaguered children.  Unfortunately, unlike the many church-run migrant shelters located in states along the border, U.S. border patrol facilities cannot and will not accept public donations.

So what can we do?

First, let us recognize that there are some things we can’t fix without changes in government, laws, and practice. Now is the right time for these changes; at this very moment, our congressional leaders are  working on funding legislation that affects vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees. We encourage you to put pressure on your U.S. representatives and senators with emails and phone calls to demand that immigration enforcement agencies be held accountable by the “supplemental appropriations bill.”

For more information, please check out this excellent—and brief—guide from Human Rights First.

Secondly, consider a donation to UMCOR to aid their support of six transitional shelters for migrants along the U.S. – Mexico border. UMCOR also provides funding to JFON sites in South Texas that offer legal services to migrants and asylum seekers, including at some detention centers.

Sadly, the children interviewed at Clint Border Patrol Station had been there for three or four weeks—far longer than the 72 hours allowed by law.  Worse, almost none of them were actually unaccompanied migrant children.  They had arrived with a parent or relative and border officials had separated them.  These are children with parents and relatives in the U.S. who are able and eager to care for them, and yet day after day passed and these children remained in limbo, unwitting pawns in the ongoing battle over immigration enforcement.

As people of faith, as Americans, as human beings, every inch of our collective being recoils from the notion of taxpayer-funded mistreatment of children.  We will not stand by in silence while this is done in our name. We will exert our power as a just and compassionate people to see these facilities shut down and these children released.

And as always, our JFON attorneys will exert every effort to reunite migrant children with their families and to allow them to remain safely, securely, and happily here in their new country.

This is our mission. Please join us.

Rob Rutland-Brown
Executive Director
National Justice for Our Neighbors






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Immigration Issues