Mar 2, 2015
A record number of children from Central American countries are crossing the borders from Mexico into the U.S. Last year, around 51,000 children unaccompanied by an adult have come across with an additional 61,000 “family units,” which are most usually women with children.
Under U.S. law, these children are not supposed to be imprisoned or detained; they are supposed to be released to family or sponsors. But as early as 2005, the Bush administration began breaking these laws by long detentions of children and mothers. In 2009 the Obama administration took down detention centers after scandals arose regarding imprisonment and poor conditions for children and moms.
But today, again, in the face of an increase in the immigration from Central America of children and mothers, the Obama administration has set up new detention facilities. One such facility, in Artemia, New Mexico, has been the subject of exposés by legal rights activists due to its horrible conditions. One said “it’s a jail, and the women and children are being led around by guards.” Children were routinely malnourished, depressed and had contracted pneumonia, scabies and lice in the jail. Children were vomiting and refusing to eat cold food and old food that was offered to them. There was no attempt being made to provide the food of their own cultures, and no attempt to have Spanish-speaking people working in the facility.
Under U.S. law, the fact that these families are not from a nation whose borders touch the U.S. should give them the right to asylum and safety, if they are members of a group that is being persecuted or subjected to violence.
Well, they are.
Increasingly, in Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador, there have been horrific, daily attacks against women and children by members of gangs that rape and murder and use the children as mules to transport drugs across the borders. Some of these gangs arose after the Mexican army drove guerillas across borders into Central America. Some are gangs that are part of the current state structures and work for government officials. The continued U.S. policy of exploitation of this region has devastated the economies and most severely affected the young, women and the elderly.
Clearly, the law should give these women and children a right to asylum. But instead, women and their children are being brought before judges en masse and then deported.
Recently, a federal judge ruled that these mass detentions are illegal – again. BUT – he ordered the authorities to consider each asylum case individually, meaning that all of these families will continue to be detained for a long, long time while they wait for their cases to be “considered.”
When legal advocates began to get support and publicity for these families and became more successful at obtaining release for women and children, the Artemia facility was abruptly shut down and the women and children were shipped out to a facility in Karnes, Texas. Officials in Karnes had implemented plans to expand the Karnes facility from 500 to roughly 1,100 beds. Two hours west of Karnes in Dilley, Texas, the federal government is opening up a detention center with 2,400 beds. While government officials make propaganda regarding how nice the facility will be with classrooms, libraries, play areas, etc., it will be run by the same prison company that ran the Hutto center that was ordered closed. In any case, the intention is clear: More women and children will be detained in jail conditions pending deportation, instead of released and aided while finding refuge in the U.S.
Deportation often means death for these children and the women who have bravely brought them out. What kind of a society turns children and mothers back over to butchers and dictators?
Capitalism has no solutions for the horrific population destabilizations it has caused, neither here nor in the countries made poor by its exploitation. Not much is told of the story of these immigrants, the children who are right in America’s “backyard.” The right wing can’t even rustle up the old lie about these immigrants “taking jobs away from real Americans.” A toddler is too little to walk, let alone work.
Despite its soothing rhetoric, the Obama administration has deported more people from the U.S. than any former administration. With 140,000 unaccompanied children expected to cross the border this year, this morally bankrupt government has no solution other than a worsening of life for these children before their lives have even begun.
When the U.S. working class realizes that workers have no countries, and that national borders have been set up only to benefit the capitalist class’ drive for profits, it will fight for the rights of all workers. And first and foremost, it will fight for the rights of mothers and children.