The Trump Administration’s zero tolerance policy has led to an influx of over 2,300 children, all requiring government care. Reporters still can’t obtain information on how many children fall under the age of 5, 2 or are even non-verbal. But officials argue that their facilities and shelters are specialized to meet the needs of tender age children – babies and toddlers, that is. However, they are essentially living in detention centers.
Defending the shelters for young children, the Department of Health and Human Services official, Steven Wagner said, “We have specialized facilities that are devoted to providing care to children with special needs and tender age children as we define as under 13 would fall into that category.”
However, Michelle Brane, the director of migrant rights at the Women’s Refugee Commission doesn’t buy it, “The facilities that they have for the most part are not licensed for tender age children. There is no model for how you house tons of little children in cots institutionally in our country. We don’t do orphanages, our child welfare has recognized that is an inappropriate setting for little children.”
Kay Bellor, who serves as vice president for Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services says is also in disbelief over the growing crisis. She “can’t wrap [her] mind around it. Toddlers are being detained.”
Not only is the US unprepared and ill-equipped to care for thousands of migrant children – who they now classify as “unaccompanied minors”- but this influx is still the result of inhumane policies.
As a South Texas pediatrician, Marsha Griffin, has said after visiting many Texas shelters, “The shelters aren’t the problem, it’s taking kids from their parents that’s the problem.”
In fact, when doctors and lawyers visit these facilities, it’s clear that the spaces are clean and safe. However, the children are under sever emotional duress.
And it’s no wonder why. As Alicia Lieberman, the director of the Early Trauma Treatment Network in San Francisco says “early separations can cause permanent emotional damage.”