Children denied soap, toothpaste, mattresses, and adequate medical care.
Mothers being denied running water to wash their infants' bottles.
Flu outbreaks caused by lack of sanitation.
People packed into cells so crowded they can’t move around.
No windows. Lights on 24 hours a day. Poor diet.
These aren't urban legends. These aren't reports from barbaric internment camps of the 20th century.
These are the conditions that reputable professionals have witnessed when visiting detention camps at the U.S. border. Now. Today. In the United States of 2019.
For instance, consider Dr. Dolly Lucio Sevier, a pediatrician who practices in Brownsville, Texas.
In June of 2019, she visited the Ursula detention center in McAllen, Texas. She wasn't allowed to go inside the cells where children were being held. But 39 children were brought to her for examination.
What did she observe? Conditions that would be unacceptable in a jail:
As recounted in the Atlantic Monthly, (and in this story by WBUR), Dr. Sevier learned that the children had been denied the opportunity to brush their teeth and wash their hands. They weren't able to wash even after using the toilet. Teen mothers weren't given running water to wash their infants' baby bottles.
Almost all the kids had respiratory infections. They were sleep-deprived, and showed signs of dehydration, malnutrition, and emotional trauma.
Other witnesses -- medical and legal -- have reported similar conditions. And an arm of the U.S. government -- the Office of the Inspector General -- confirms that the detention facilities are in crisis.
The photos here come from the Inspector General's report, a report entitled "Dangerous overcrowding and prolonged detention of children and adults in the Rio Grande Valley." You can download the report yourself via this link.
In 2018, there was public outcry over the cruel, forced separation of refugee children from their parents. That outcry had some beneficial effects. Fewer children are being separated.
But the suffering continues, and the human beings enduring this suffering need us to speak out. What can we do?
1. Put pressure on politicians to end the detention of children, stop human rights violations, and institute immediate inspections and oversight into what is going on.
Compel the U.S. government to follow strict standards to protect the rights and welfare of children and adults. Write or phone your U.S. congressional representative. Don't know the contact information? Look it up here.
2. Support organizations that fight for the rights of detained individuals and families.
3. Donate to charities that are working to provide relief to children at the border in need.
Save the Children is focused on "delivering immediate humanitarian aid to newly arrived children and families." This includes "speaking out against violations of children’s rights at the border" and "supporting transit shelters that care for newly arrived children and families after being released by U.S. Customs & Border Patrol."
4. Don't allow your friends, neighbors, or colleagues to ignore this terrible crisis -- regardless of their political views.
This isn't a partisan issue. It's a question of basic decency and human rights. History will judge us. As former governor John Kasich has written in a recent editorial:
"What's happening on our southern border -- migrant children in overcrowded, unsanitary and unsafe conditions, separated from their families -- is an unspeakable disgrace and a stain on this nation we may never wash away."