Community protests deaths of migrant refugee children at southern border
Children kept in cages by Trump administration. | AP

On Wednesday, May 22, the news announced the death, in U.S. custody, of a sixth refugee child who had crossed the border. The child was a 10-year-old girl, as yet unnamed,  from El Salvador. Abominable it is that another child died in American hands and equally shocking was the fact that the youngster passed away eight months earlier in September of 2018.  This begs the question: How many more children have died that we don’t know about? This is a Trump cover-up and an outrage.

As this news coursed through the Indigenous and progressive community here it was immediately felt that a protest demonstration must be organized.  The demonstration was held that following Wednesday, May 29, at the federal building in downtown Nashville. Presently, the majority of migrants crossing the border are Indigenous with over 60% being from Guatemala, according to the latest news reports.

The protest, organized by the local Native community, emphasized that the Trump administration does not care about human rights or justice. As Illinois Democratic representative, Ellen Underwood, recently said, the deaths of these children is “intentional.” This is the result of government policy that holds the refugees under conditions that are life-threatening. The children and their families are held in cages in warehouses with frigid temperatures, without adequate bedding, no blankets or warm clothing, given frozen sandwiches to eat and forced to drink fetid water. This is torture.

Some children have given testimony that they were only given apples and water for several days while being caged. Children were forced to wear soiled underwear for days.  The children are forced to sleep on cold floors under bright lights that are kept on all night. This is enforced sleep deprivation that further weakens their immune systems and makes them susceptible to deadly respiratory diseases. Again, this is torture resulting in death.

Nursing mothers are being separated from their infants. These acts are crimes against humanity under international law. The refugees are being held in fascist concentration death camps. These families, after being soaked from crossing rivers or being caught in rainstorms, are housed in facilities with freezing temperatures – hierlas, iceboxes in Spanish, and kept in unlivable conditions. Small wonder children are dying and that these deaths are ranked as “intentional.’

Daily accounts of more atrocities pour in. On Friday, May 31, national news reported that 900 migrants had been crammed into the El Paso Del Norte Processing Center that only had space for 120. Border Patrol agents said that many migrants were forced to stand for “days or weeks” because there wasn’t enough room to even sit on the floor. Some refugees even stood on toilets to get air to breathe. News footage indicated these poor human beings compacted elbow to elbow. This is barbaric and medieval!

Just this past week this writer received an email petition from Progress America on June 4, indicating that family separation continues and demanding the closing of the Homestead Child Detention Center.  The email  stated in pertinent part as follows:

“Our government is holding over 2,000 child migrants, who have been separated from their families by U.S. immigration officials, in a detention center in Homestead, Florida.

“Instead of being released to family members or other sponsors, children are spending weeks or months in inhumane detention.

“The level of cruelty and neglect on the part of the Trump Administration for children who come to our country fleeing violence and poverty is stunning, and we can’t afford to be numb to it.”

Unfortunately, the country is not rising to the standard that it should to demand an immediate end to the horrific treatment of these hapless children and their families. Is the nation becoming numb to the plight of these persecuted unfortunates? There should be massive demonstrations across the country demanding an end to the incarceration of these refugees in these death and disease-ridden prison camps. Where is the conscience of America?

In El Paso, the federal authorities reportedly told the media that no change in holding facilities could be expected before  November. These holding pens are designed to kill the most vulnerable- the children.

On May 31, ABC News reported that more than 2,400 children were still waiting to be picked up from Border Patrol stations along the U.S.-Mexico border. The federal agencies tasked with caring for them can’t agree on why they are not being moved to children’s shelters. Facilities at the Border Patrol centers- oftentimes just cement blocks without beds- are woefully inadequate and inappropriate for children.  But as the number of migrant children skyrocketed to 9,000 for the month of April alone, the federal government has left children waiting at these installations for weeks or even months.

When put on the spot as to why thousands of children are stuck in border detention centers on any given day, the Homeland Security Department, which oversees border operations, points the finger at Health and Human Services(HHS) saying that HHS does not have bed space for the waiting children. But HHS fires back that it is not out of bed space and will accept any child transported into its custody as long as the child is medically cleared. Talk about “passing the proverbial buck!” In the meantime, the children continue to languish under inhuman conditions. This is intentional.

There is also the issue of how many children are still actually separated from their families. The latest figures given to this writer by the American Civil Liberties  Union (ACLU)  on 5/28/19 stated that as of “October 15, the government provided the courts with official data that indicated that at least 2,654 children had been separated from their families.” In September of last year, other sources said that as many as 11,800 children were still separated from their loved ones. Both figures are atrocious and indicative of a government that seeks to terrorize migrant families. Moreover, in light of the aforementioned figures for children in April alone, the true numbers must be astronomical and near incalculable.

Again as this writer pens this column more daily reports of abominable conditions and atrocities flood the media. Some of these conditions are from inspections of last year that have just been disclosed within this week. This amounts to a cover-up.

On June 6,  it was disclosed that the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general found spoiled food, unusable toilets and inadequate recreation time in surprise visits to immigration detention facilities in California, Louisiana, New York, and Colorado between May and November of last year. The locations inspected in those states had rotting food issues, which put all the detainees, particularly the children, at risk for food-borne illnesses. This was a year ago which begs the question: What else is being covered up by this administration in these death camps?

Further, just in the last couple of days, it was reported by U.S. doctors that the Border Patrol was confiscating the medicines of migrant children. Also, a volunteer for the humanitarian organization, No More Deaths, in southern Arizona is facing 20 years in prison for providing food, water, and clothing to refugees crossing the border. But, in light of the fact that the remains of over 3,000 migrants have been found in the southern Arizona desert since 2001, this is a case of where the prosecutors should be prosecuted.

As for the heinous policies that are carried out by Trump we must not forget these atrocities are carried out in a ruthless attempt to halt non-white immigration. Several months ago Trump said that he would like to see more immigrants to the U.S. preferably from “Norway.” Racist that he is, Trump wants to maintain a white majority in this country (this writer for obvious reasons prefers a non-white majority).

This also brings up the issue of Obama and deportations. We must not forget that this was also the policy of the Obama administration in the same respect to maintaining this land as a white majority country. In one year alone, 2012 to be exact, under Obama there were over 400,000 deportations.   In his last year in office, Obama was responsible for nationwide waves of family deportation raids. He expanded Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) powers to find, arrest and deport migrants. Between 2009 and 2015, his administration deported over 2.5 million migrants, more in fact than the government of his Republican predecessor George W. Bush. Obama’s policies in this regard were a cold-blooded capitulation to racism.

In the meantime, there is also the agonizing issue of just where are so many of the separated children. Reportedly the Trump administration has destroyed the files of countless refugee children. Speculation is that many of the children could have fallen to sex traffickers. Again, this would be the fault of the iniquitous Trump regime. All the while this government fosters the lethal, unspeakable conditions that are taking the lives of these innocent youngsters.

The children are dying. Where is the conscience of America?


Albert Bender
Albert Bender

Albert Bender is a Cherokee activist, historian, political columnist, and freelance reporter for Native and Non-Native publications. He is currently writing a legal treatise on Native American sovereignty and working on a book on the war crimes committed by the U.S. against the Maya people in the Guatemalan civil war He is a consulting attorney on Indigenous sovereignty, land restoration, and Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) issues and a former staff attorney with Legal Services of Eastern Oklahoma (LSEO) in Muskogee, Okla.