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There is no doubt that the ongoing migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border is a difficult problem to solve. How to handle a large influx of people arriving at our doorstep and how to expediently process increasing asylum claims is a big question with many unclear answers.

But there's one thing we should be crystal clear about. Inhumanity should have no place in our immigration policies, and cruelty toward children should never be tolerated, period. And yet, that's exactly what we are seeing in our detention facilities.


Nineteen U.S. states have filed a joint lawsuit alleging inhumane conditions in U.S. immigration detention centers, specifically when it comes to children. The lawsuit includes first-hand accounts from detainees ages 12 to 17 describing how they were held in crowded cells without enough room to lie down and no privacy to use the toilet. They said the facilities were kept at frigid temperatures, and when someone complained, guards lowered the temperature further. Those who were lucky enough to be given aluminum blankets had them taken away at 4 a.m., and some had only the bare, cold floor to sleep on. They said guards woke the children in the middle of the night for "roll calls," yelled or cursed at kids who cried, and took some kids away to stay in dark rooms by themselves overnight. They said the food they were given was sometimes still frozen or smelled or tasted "off."

RELATED: An immigration lawyer's viral post reminds us that every statistic is a human story.

Overcrowding is a problematic but understandable reality considering the large numbers of migrants we're seeing. However, there is no excuse for some of the actions and conditions these children described.

Turning the air conditioning up so high as to be torturous, and turning it up even higher when detainees complain? Not okay.

Taking away children's sweaters or other warm clothing and then forcing them to sleep on a bare floor in freezing cold conditions? Not okay.

(Considering how some Americans like to complain about wasting taxpayer money on immigrants, I'm surprised there's not more uproar about this. Air conditioning is expensive. It must be costing a fortune to keep detention facilities at ridiculously cold temps at the hot Mexico border. Why is that necessary?)

Keeping the lights on all night long and disrupting the little amounts of sleep these kids are getting? Not okay. (Sleep deprivation is a form of torture for a reason.)

Not allowing a menstruating girl to shower for 10 days when there are showers available? Only allowing a menstruating girl one sanitary pad per day, even when she's bled through it, her underwear, and her clothing? Not okay.

Yelling and swearing at scared little kids for crying? Not okay.

Not providing enough food and water and then throwing food on the floor for children to fight over? So. Not. Okay.

How is it that we can afford to keep the lights on at all hours, but can't afford to provide kids with toothbrushes or soap or sanitary pads? How is it that we can keep the air conditioning blasting on high all day and night, but can't provide adequate water and decent food?

Check out some of the excerpts from the sworn statement of Alma Poletti, Investigation Supervisor for the Washington State Attorney General's Office, describing what the children reported.

The freezing conditions made worse when someone complained:

"Children described these facilities as rooms of different sizes with no windows to the outside and where lights were kept on 24-hours per day. Most of the children reported these detention facilities were freezing, kept at extremely cold temperatures. Children were only given 'aluminum' blankets to keep themselves warm. Some of them had sweaters or spare clothes with them when they arrived at the detention facility, but these were confiscated by the immigration officers (the children referred to them as 'officers' or 'guards') and they were never returned to them even if a child asked for warm clothes or additional blankets. One girl recalled instances when mothers who were detained with their children complained to the officers about the cold temperatures because their kids were getting sick. An officer would then grab the air-conditioner remote. After that, the room would get colder, as if the officer had been annoyed by the request and decided to lower the temperature even further."

Purposeful sleep deprivation:

Some of the children reported that guards would interrupt the little rest they had, waking them up in the middle of the night for roll call, or to put out food. Children reported feeling like there was no need for the guards to wake them up in the middle of the night and that officers were doing it on purpose to intentionally disrupt their sleep. One girl said guards would take away their 'aluminum' blankets every morning at 4 a.m. The blankets were the only thing they had to keep themselves warm in the freezing facility, so kids wanted to keep them, but would be yelled at by the guards when they asked if they could have the blankets back."

Children who cried being put into isolation in a dark room:

"If the children would not stop crying, a guard would open the door, ask the crying child to come to the door, and then threaten them. The 16-year old girl heard guards tell children that if they did not stop crying, they would be 'left in a corner' with no one to help them, or that they would be 'sent to a dark room.' Over the ten days this girl was detained, she saw three children taken away only to return the next day; when they got back they said they had been kept in a dark room alone. One six-year old boy was taken to the dark room because he accidentally clogged the toilet with toilet paper."

Guards yelling and swearing at a 7-year-old for crying:

"A different girl remembers that two guards started cursing at a seven-year old girl with horrible words that she refused to repeat to interviewers. The guards were yelling and swearing at the younger girl because she would not stop crying."

That's only a taste of what's in Poletti's testimony. The whole thing is worth a read.

No one expects immigration processes to be perfect, but we absolutely should expect our government to be humane. How we treat fellow human beings isn't about political ideologies, but about basic human decency. There is no excuse for mistreating children, especially those who are already scared and confused. There's no excuse for wasting electricity on excessive air conditioning and 24/7 lights while denying children access to basic hygiene. It's not necessary; it's cruel.

RELATED: After 246 days of separation, this woman and her daughter are finally reunited.

No matter what our stance is on immigration, no matter what we think needs to be done about it, we should all be able to agree that cruelty to children is not okay. We must maintain a basic level of humanity and have lines that we simply refuse to cross as we grapple with our immigration questions. Morally and ethically, subjecting children to this kind of treatment when we have the ability to choose otherwise is unconscionable.

Legally, it's also unacceptable—we've created laws and regulations to avoid keeping children in such conditions and to avoid detaining them for too long. Hence this lawsuit.

We cannot allow state-sanctioned cruelty to children—any children—to go unchecked in our name.


In November 2011, a camera trap recorded one of the most spectacular immigrants ever.

Deep in the Santa Rita mountains of Arizona, a single male jaguar padded in front of the camera. It was incredible: no wild jaguars had been seen in the United States since 1986.

Adult male jaguars can weigh up to 200 pounds, and the cat quickly earned an equally weighty nickname: "El Jefe," Spanish for "the boss." The boss wouldn't be alone for long. Over the next few years, a handful of other jaguars also appeared, including one as recently as November 2016.


Where did all these big cats come from? Mexico.

People aren't the only migrants crossing the border between Mexico and the United States.

It's natural for animals like El Jefe to roam vast spaces in search of food, water, and potential mates, though roads, towns, and nearly 700 miles of border fencing have made the journey difficult in recent years.

Construction of President Trump's border wall could make that even harder, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported. In fact, over 100 different endangered species would be affected. So with a fast-track that'd ignore environmental impact requirements and wall prototypes already going up, let's not leave these animals faceless. In fact, let's meet a few of the denizens who might be affected.

The most impressive animal migrant is no doubt the jaguar.

All illustrations by Kaley McKean.

El Jefe definitely deserves his "boss" title. Jaguars are the third largest cat in the world and are so on top of the food chain that they regularly prey on alligators. Human hunters wiped out the U.S. population back in the 1960s, but recent sightings might mean they're poised for a comeback.

On the smaller end of things, the ocelot is especially striking too.

Found in Arizona and Texas, this diminutive wild cat doesn't roar; it chuckles, yowls, and mutters. Once hunted for its fur, the ocelet has been a protected species since 1989. Still, there may be fewer than 100 left in the United States.

The most obscure? Perhaps it's the jaguarundi.

The jaguarundi is a bizarre looking cat. It looks like a cross between a mini-mountain lion and an otter. Like the ocelot, they sometimes wander into the United States, but are even more rare.

Tired of weird cats? Meet the Mexican gray wolf.

The rarest and smallest subspecies of gray wolf in North America, the Mexican gray wolf was saved from extinction in the 1970s. The last five surviving wolves were captured and put into a breeding program. 113 of those survivors' descendants now roam Arizona and New Mexico.

On the coast, you might run into sea turtles and manatees.

The Mexican-American border juts out into the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, so construction would need to cut through the habitat of green sea turtles, West Indian manatees, and other aquatic species.

Then there's the ultra-speedy Sonoran pronghorn, which can outrun Olympians.

If you want to catch a pronghorn, you better come prepared — they can run up to 40 miles per hour. The reason? They may have evolved that ferocious speed to run away from ancient, equally-speedy cheetah-like predators.

The Sonoran pronghorn is a distinct, smaller subspecies of the more widespread American pronghorn. Its once massive population has been reduced to a mere 160 individuals in the United States.

Check out the ferruginous pygmy owl.

The reddish-brown owls (ferruginous means "rusty") don't fly very high, so a wall could cut them off from larger populations to the south, which has scientists worried about whether they could survive.

Even high-flying birds, like the red-crowned parrot, might be affected.

The border contains important nesting sites or migration paths for birds like the red-crowned and thick-billed parrots, the California condor, and even the bald eagle.

Not to mention countless smaller critters like the arroyo toad.

They might not be the most photogenic, but these little creatures matter too. Along with the California red-legged frog and the black-spotted newt, countless other animals travel freely across or live along the U.S.-Mexico border.

We need to build things. It's part of what makes humanity unique. But every project comes with its costs.

Normally, a massive project like the border wall would be preceded by a number of environmental impact studies, to protect as many creatures like El Jefe as possible. But that Homeland Security fast-track means that builders are free to skip those studies entirely — a potential "ecological disaster," as Vox reported last spring.

When we ask whether a border wall is worth spending over $20 billion on, we should also pause for a moment and also ask ourselves who else, or what else, is paying that price?

And, maybe most important: How does the boss feel about all this?

More

A brewery just came up with a genius replacement for Trump's border wall.

Human beings have been known to drink beer in bizarre places. Now, a U.K. brewer wants to add another to the list. Well, two places, technically speaking.

Scottish brewery BrewDog has unveiled plans to build a new craft beer bar that straddles the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

An artists rendering of the proposed site. Photo via Brewdog.

"Beer has always been a unifying factor between cultures — and BrewDog was born from collaboration and an inclusive approach," co-founder James Watt writes in an email.


The open-air watering hole, dubbed "The Bar on the Edge," is slated to debut on a plot of land between Texas and Chihuahua, Mexico, though Watt and company have yet to release an exact location — or receive permission from local and federal officials on either side of the border.

"I'm sure there’ll be a few hoops to jump through," he explains.

While the idea may seem far-fetched, it's the latest in a line of cheeky stunts to transform President Trump's proposed border wall into something positive.

Earlier this year, a group of designers, architects, and engineers unveiled a design for the "wall" that included parks, a regional ID card to facilitate cross-border travel, and a Hyperloop with stops in both countries, among other unifying features.

Photo via Otra Nation.

The actual physical border may not be the easiest place to open a business, but cross-border commerce and cultural exchange is nothing new.

With the high cost of dental procedures in the United States, tens of thousands of Americans cross into Los Algodones, Mexico, each year to have their teeth cleaned (and pulled, and root-canal'd).

Residents of Tijuana frequently cross the other way to shop at Southern California's malls and big-box stores — and vice-versa. Several San Diego retailers have complained that President Trump's tough immigration talk has exacerbated a decline in customers.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Some parents in Nogales, Mexico, even send their children to private parochial schools across the border to learn English, with the Catholic educational system strong in both countries.

Which raises the question: Could the border bar ever become a reality?

It's unlikely under current law that "mandates that people and merchandise may only enter the United States after inspection at designated Ports of Entry," as U.S. Customs and Border Patrol spokesperson Christiana Coleman explains in an email.

Nevertheless, the company says it plans to forge ahead with the project, at least for now.

"It would make it more difficult to build a wall if there’s a BrewDog bar in the way," Watt said in a statement. "We’re planning on putting the bar there anyway until someone tells us to move it."

If BrewDog succeeds at turning beer-drinking into a form of protest, the Bar on the Edge is certain to mint plenty of new activists in no time.

"Citizens?"

San Diego middle school teacher Shane Parmely was driving with her family in New Mexico when she was asked that question at a Border Patrol checkpoint miles from the actual border.

Parmely refused to answer. A member of her family filmed the encounter, which has since gone viral on Facebook.


Parmely, who is white, told KGTV-San Diego that many of her Latino friends are frequently stopped at such checkpoints.

As a result, she believes they are unconstitutional and wanted to register her opposition.

"The people that we see you actually making show papers are all brown," she tells the arresting officer in the video. Parmely and her family were held for about 90 minutes before being released.

According to the ACLU, Border Patrol agents may ask "a few, limited questions to verify the citizenship of the vehicles' occupants," and may not detain drivers for an extended period of time "without cause."

In an email statement to KGTV, the Border Patrol affirmed its right to question Parmely about her immigration status.

A Border Patrol agent stops a vehicle at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2013. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

"At a Border Patrol checkpoint, an agent may question a vehicle’s occupants about their citizenship, place of birth, and request document proof of immigration status, how legal status was obtained and make quick observations of what is in plain view in the interior of the vehicle," the agency argued.

Nonetheless, Parmely felt it was important to stand up to something she believes is an affront to American values.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

"We would have no civil rights if people didn't question authority or challenge the status quo," she said in an interview with KGTV.

As a white woman, Parmely explains, she realizes she likely had the privilege of being waved through with a quick "yes, I'm a citizen."

Nonetheless, she couldn't simply tolerate the brief inconvenience because many of her non-white friends and colleagues don't have that luxury. As she told the station, "When you see something that is clearly racist, you have a choice."