The U.S. Is Taking Migrant Children into Custody and Neglecting Them

[Content Note: Nativism; child abuse; sexual violence.]

Last Thursday, I wrote about a 16-year-old boy who died in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody, the third such death since last December, raising fresh and urgent concerns about the care that migrant children taken into U.S. custody are receiving while detained in shelters.

At ProPublica, Michael Grabell has a must-read report detailing that the conditions are indeed demanding of our attention, worry, and outrage: "Pediatrician Who Treated Immigrant Children Describes Pattern of Lapses in Medical Care in Shelters."

The piece opens with a story about 15-year-old Honduran refugee Yosary, who is being detained at a "group home" in New Jersey with her 2-year-old son. She complained about symptoms for weeks before she was taken to see one of the shelter's pediatricians, at which point she was so ill from anemia, her history of which was documented in her record (but ignored), that she required hospitalization for intravenous intervention.

Her pediatrician, Dr. Elana Levites-Agababa, is now blowing the whistle on the chronically neglectful system that is endangering migrant children in U.S. custody. She is very brave.

The focus of the piece is on healthcare (or the lack thereof), but I also want to highlight this later passage about the details of Yosary's background, which forced her to the U.S. in the first place:
Yosary had come to the United States last March to seek asylum. In Honduras, she said, she had been raped when she was 12 and became pregnant with her son. After the family reported the attack, she said, they began receiving a series of threats. The lines between the local gang and the police and military in her city seemed increasingly blurry.

As the child got older, Yosary said, her attacker started lingering near her house, and she feared her son would be kidnapped.

So Yosary decided to flee with several members of her family, carrying her toddler by foot, by truck and finally by inflatable raft across the Rio Grande. After finding Border Patrol agents, she was taken to a processing station, where she was separated from the rest of her family and sent with her son to CFS' mother-and-children's home in New Jersey.
Donald Trump and members of his administration and Republican members of Congress and Fox News anchors and conservative talk radio hosts routinely describe migrants and refugees as violent criminals who are crossing the border with nefarious intentions to do harm to U.S. citizens — and then that demonizing stereotype gets repeated and amplified by Trump's deplorable base.

But the vast majority of migrants and refugees are people who are fleeing violent criminals and other desperate circumstances, including climate change, which are forcing them out of their homes. They are seeking safety.

Yosary is a 15-year-old child with a child of her own. She doesn't want to hurt anyone. She wants to not be hurt herself.

We can give her that. We should.

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