Trump Admin Argues in Court That Detained Children Don't Need Soap, Toothbrushes

Recently, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said that detention facilities present across the US-Mexico border are "exactly like concentration camps".

New Delhi: As US president Donald Trump gears up for his 2020 re-election campaign, his administration has aggressively ramped up deportations of migrants in line with his hardline policy on illegal immigration.

Children belonging to detained families are bearing the brunt of harrowing detainment policies.

More than 2,700 children have been forcibly separated and detained in camps along the US-Mexico border and at least 7 have died in custody since late 2018, prompting international outrage.

But rather than taking responsibility for the safe release of these children to their parents, the Trump administration has doubled down on its neglect.

A recent Newsweek report outlines how a team of lawyers belonging to the administration argued in court on Tuesday that the provision of soap and toothbrushes to children did not fall under its purview.

The lawyers stated that the provision of these necessities was not listed as a necessary ‘safe and sanitary condition’ in Jenny Lisette Flores v. Edwin Meese, a 1985 class action lawsuit which established guidelines for the adequate treatment of minors held in immigration detention facilities.

Also read: Trump’s Family Separation Policy Is Catastrophic for Children’s Development

The argument provoked indignation and disbelief on behalf of the three sitting judges, with US Circuit Judge Marsha Berzon asking, “You’re really going to stand up and tell us that being able to sleep isn’t a question of safe and sanitary conditions?”

On June 18, Congressional representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to  Twitter to say that detention facilities present across the US-Mexico border are “exactly like concentration camps”, a comment which was subsequently chastised by Representative Liz Cheney.

Cheney accused Ocasio-Cortez of trivialising the scale and impact of the Holocaust atrocities, in which more than six million Jews died in concentration camps. Concentration-camp historians have defended Ocasio-Cortez, arguing that the dehumanisation of a racial minority along with the “insufficient resources, overcrowding, and deteriorating conditions” present in these camps make her assertion valid.

A view of inside a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention facility shows children at Rio Grande Valley Centralized Processing Center in Rio Grande City, Texas, June 17, 2018. Wikipedia has now added the detention centres to its list of concentration camps. Photo: Reuters

The role of ICE

Recently, the numbers of migrants apprehended on the US-Mexico border reached its highest level this year since 2006, as wave after wave of individuals seeking asylum came through Mexico, mostly from the ‘Northern Triangle’ countries of Central America – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

Once these individuals receive removal orders by US immigration courts, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) targets them for immediate deportation.

According to a Reuters report, ICE’s activities are enabled by a family docket created by the Trump administration in immigration courts last year, due to which the hearings of families facing removal could be expedited.

As of June 14, 56,000 cases have been placed on the fast-tracked family docket, and 12,800 have been ordered for removal. A majority of these removals have occurred in absentia, meaning that the implicated individuals were not present for their hearing.

Also read: Trump Administration Defends Immigration Policy as Outrage Grows Over Children

ICE acting director Mark Morgan hopes that the agency’s actions will send a powerful message to immigrants from Northern Triangle countries. Speaking to Reuters in the same report, he addressed the migrants, saying, “Do not come. Do not risk it. Once you receive due process and get a final order, you will be removed.”

To supplement domestic enforcement policies, Trump has also ramped up pressure on central American countries to curb the flow of migration. Last week, Trump threatened fresh trade tariffs on Mexico if their Congress of lawmakers failed to ratify a new Immigration and Security deal, which amongst other things would accelerate the extradition procedures.

Much to the chagrin of both Democrat and Republican lawmakers, Trump also permanently diverted $370 million in aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador as he was unhappy with the laxness of their immigration policies.

Critics said that the decision would cruelly cut off crucial aid to these hunger and poverty-stricken countries, and would only worsen the material conditions that are compelling many citizens to migrate in the first place.