Regardless of feelings on immigration, the abuse of children is unacceptable.
A shocking new report reveals even more about the toll immigration takes on children. We can do better.
According to a May 2018 ACLU report, hundreds of children suffered abuse at the hands of U.S. border authorities. The crimes alleged range from verbal threats to physical abuse to being denied urgent medical care.
This isn't political. The crimes in the report happened between 2009 and 2014, when President Barack Obama was still office. They reveal systemic abuse and how the most vulnerable people can be overlooked amid the noise of a larger political debate.
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The Customs and Border Protection agency has challenged the ACLU report, saying they've reformed their policies while simultaneously denying the bulk of allegations contained in the 30,000 page ACLU document. However, if even one of the allegations is true, it exposes a tragic tale and a problem that must be fixed.
Most of the immigrants in the reports of abuse were already fleeing unstable and threatening conditions, seeking asylum in a country they thought would protect them. "These are allegations that span across multiple years, multiple states, involving children from different backgrounds," said ACLU attorney Mitra Ebadolahi. "The consistency to them, to us, indicates that there’s truth there."
This has nothing to do with the debate over immigration. It's about basic humanity.
Everybody is entitled to basic human rights, and unfortunately, children and other vulnerable populations are often the most at risk. The details in the ACLU report aren't concepts. They are stories about real people facing violence and abuse during a time of incredible vulnerability.
That's why it's no coincidence that in Ebadolahi's summary of the report, she opens with the story of Jahveel Ocampo, a 15-year-old mother who was seized at the border with her 2-year-old child, where she was allegedly slapped and threatened with sexual assault if she didn't agree to sign a paper allowing for her deportation.
Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.
"If the abuses were this bad under Obama when the Border Patrol described itself as constrained, imagine how it must be now under Trump," Ebadolahi writes. After all, the Department of Homeland Security also this May released a shocking report admitting the government has "lost" 1,475 of the more than 7,000 minors taken into custody by border officials.
There are people in government working to make things better. On May 23, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California) and other congressional leaders held a rally in Washington, D.C., to support immigration and refugee policies that protect women and children.
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"This is about our children, and families, and whether we’re going to be a compassionate government or a cruel government," Harris said. "And I think we’re better than this."
It's important to support groups like the ACLU that hold powerful people and institutions accountable.
These stories are heartbreaking and unacceptable, but there are real ways to hold our government accountable and demand change.
Groups like the ACLU are more important than ever on issues like immigration, free speech, and digital privacy. They are tireless advocates for individuals without the financial or political power to make their voices heard.
The ACLU has received record amounts of funding since Trump's election and this report is just the latest example of how they're working to protect the most vulnerable members of society, giving voice to those who are often voiceless.