Migrant children are facing horrifying conditions while in detention at Border Patrol facilities along the Southern border, including unsanitary environments, overcrowding, and cruel treatment.
Immigration advocates say that children are being kept in facilities that weren’t built with the purpose of holding adults for a long period of time, much less kids, or in tents. Several reports say minors have gone weeks in detention without access to adequate food, space to sleep, or even basic sanitary necessities such as soap or toothpaste — which is in direct violation of the 1997 Flores settlement agreement.
Dire conditions and mistreatment at detention facilities go back to long before the Trump administration. The immigration enforcement apparatus has been in place for years, through both Republican and Democratic administrations, although outrage at what many are calling human rights abuses has reached a fever pitch as President Donald Trump continues to push his hardline immigration agenda.
The issue is not limited to the border: Advocates, lawmakers, and historians have called immigration detention facilities across the nation currently holding children "concentration camps" and have demanded that the Trump administration take action.
Several of the 25 Democratic presidential candidates — including Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Kamala Harris; former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro; and South Bend, IN, Mayor Pete Buttigieg — visited Homestead, the nation's only private for-profit detention center for migrant kids and youth, following the first primary debate. During the second night of the debate, author Marianne Williamson said the conditions at the detention centers should be called "collective child abuse," while former Gov. John Hickenlooper said of separating migrant families: "In Colorado, we call that kidnapping."
While many of the candidates are promising to change the system when (or if) they are in office, this crisis can make many feel powerless. Some have even tried to directly donate diapers, soap, toothbrushes, and other necessities, only to be turned away by Border Patrol because federal agencies aren't allowed to legally accept donated items except in certain circumstances. So, how can you actually make a difference? Ahead, we outline several ways you can help today.
Support advocacy organizations.
South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR): This project of the American Bar Association is currently supporting over 1,000 unaccompanied children in detention centers across South Texas. Donate here.
Contact your elected officials.
Don't underestimate the power of pressuring your elected representatives. On Thursday, Congress voted to pass a $4.6 billion humanitarian aid bill for the detained migrant children — a measure President Donald Trump is expected to sign. But there is still work to be done, and you should make your voice heard by reaching out to your lawmakers. If you don't know where to start, you can read our guide to contacting Congress here.
Educate yourself and share accurate information.
Here is a helpful guide to the journalists, advocates, and experts you should follow on Twitter to be up-to-date with everything related to the immigration system. You can also use social media to show your opposition to detention centers and signal-boost accurate information.
If you are worried about the impact of the immigration enforcement apparatus in your immediate community, you can attend Know Your Rights trainings in your area. These trainings inform you on what your constitutional rights are (regardless of your immigration status) and how to practice safe bystander intervention when needed.