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.


Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

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.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

"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.

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less