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US held nearly 70,000 migrant kids in custody in 2019

Bond broken
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Bond broken

The 3-year-old girl traveled for weeks cradled in her father's arms, as he set out to seek asylum in the United States. Now she won't even look at him.

After being forcibly separated at the border by government officials, sexually abused in U.S. foster care and deported, she arrived back in Honduras withdrawn, anxious and angry, convinced her once-beloved father abandoned her.

He fears their bond is forever broken.

``I think about this trauma staying with her too, because the trauma has remained with me and still hasn't faded,'' he said days after their reunion.

AP
69,550 migrant children held in U.S.
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69,550 migrant children held in U.S.

This month new government data shows the little girl is one of an unprecedented 69,550 migrant children held in U.S. government custody over the past year, enough to overflow the typical NFL stadium. That's more kids detained away from their parents than any other country, according to United Nations researchers. And it's happening even though the U.S. government has recognized detention can be traumatic for children, putting them at risk of long-term physical and emotional damage.

Some of these migrant children who were in government custody this year have already been deported. Some have reunited with family in the U.S., where they're trying to go to school and piece back together their lives. About 4,000 are still in government custody, some in large, impersonal shelters. And more arrive every week.

AP
More time in shelters away from home
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More time in shelters away from home

The nearly 70,000 migrant children who were held in government custody over the last year _ up 42 percent in fiscal year 2019 from 2018 _ spent more time in shelters and away from their families than in prior years. The Trump administration's series of strict immigration policies has increased the time children spend in detention, despite the government's own acknowledgment that it does them harm.

``Early experiences are literally built into our brains and bodies,'' says Dr. Jack Shonkoff, who directs Harvard University's Center on the Developing Child. Earlier this year, he told Congress that ``decades of peer-reviewed research'' shows that detaining kids away from parents or primary caregivers is bad for their health.

AP
As per the Federal law
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As per the Federal law

Federal law requires the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement to provide migrant children with food, shelter, and medical and mental health care. But the HHS Office of Inspector General found there aren't enough clinicians in shelters holding migrant children.

HHS spokesman Mark Weber said that with the largest number of migrant children in their program's history, ``you must give credit to the Office of Refugee Resettlement and the shelter network staff for managing a program that was able to rapidly expand and unify the largest number of kids ever, all in an incredibly difficult environment.''

AP
"A Little Corner of Sunshine"
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"A Little Corner of Sunshine"

Leaving government to head the nonprofit refugee support agency USCRI, Negash wanted to do better for children, in the U.S. and abroad.

This summer, USCRI opened a model government-funded shelter in southern Florida, just down the road from Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club. Rinconcito del Sol, which translates to ``A Little Corner of Sunshine,'' has no uniformed security guard at the entrance. The residents, girls 13-17, can call their families as needed staff say, and there are more therapeutic services _ including intensive treatment for victims of trafficking and abuse _ throughout the week.

``The girls come in very sad, nervous, not knowing what to expect, unsure what the future holds for them,'' said shelter director Elcy Valdez. ``We give them that sense of security, of safety for the first time.''

AP
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