Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said kids detained at the border have all their needs taken care of. But the one need that matters most is their parents.
It’s apparently not enough for Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to tell bald-faced lies to the American public about whether the Trump administration has a policy of separating families at the border.
Now she’s excusing that policy — yes, the one she said doesn’t exist — by claiming it’s fine to incarcerate children separated from their parents because they’re being well-treated.
“It is important to note that these minors are very well taken care of. Don’t believe the press,” Nielsen said at the National Sheriff’s Association annual conference on Monday. “We operate according to some of the highest standards in the country. We provide food, medical, education, and all needs that the child requests.”
“All needs that the child requests” except the one that matters most: giving them back to their parents.
Let’s pretend for a moment that everything Nielsen says about how well the children are treated is true. Let’s pretend that not just journalists, but also members of Congress, haven’t witnessed kids being kept in actual cages. Let’s pretend that even the kids who are staying in pretty well-run facilities aren’t cooped up inside a former Walmart for 22 hours a day.
I saw chain link cages full of unaccompanied children. They sat on metal benches and stared straight ahead silently
— Rep. Peter Welch (@PeterWelch) June 17, 2018
Heck, let’s even pretend that, as Stephen Colbert put it, the government is actually sending kids to really nice five-star hotels.
Even if these children were being treated like royalty during their imprisonment, none of that would matter. They are still being imprisoned. They are still suffering massive human rights violations. The Trump administration is still committing child abuse on a massive scale, as the United Nations’ high commissioner on human rights recently noted, calling the practice “unconscionable.”
Already, medical experts are warning that the children being separated from their parents are likely to suffer the effects of this trauma for the rest of their lives.
After seeing a toddler crying inconsolably in a detention camp, Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, told CNN that what she saw was “nothing less than government-sanctioned child abuse.”
When a young child is separated from their parents without knowing when they’ll return, Kraft told BuzzFeed News, it can cause “irreparable harm to lifelong development by disrupting a child’s brain architecture.” This can lead to long-term health problems like substance abuse, developmental delays, asthma, obesity, and even cancer.
And all of this, Nielsen says, is justified because some people might just be pretending they’re related in order to get into the U.S.
“We do not have the luxury of pretending that all individuals coming to this country as a family unit are, in fact, a family,” Nielsen said during the same speech.
The callous inhumanity of this remark is staggering.
According to Nielsen, toddlers should be ripped from their parents’ arms to suffer lifelong trauma because it’s possible that maybe their parents aren’t really their parents.
According to Nielsen, and the rest of the Trump administration, children should be locked in cages because their parents are merely suspected of committing a misdemeanor by crossing the border illegally — or even because their parents sought perfectly legal asylum.
Don’t believe the Trump administration. This is a human rights emergency.
Published with permission of The American Independent.