The U.S. Government Is Still Keeping 12,800 Migrant Children in Jail

Washington, D.C. is a city of distractions, and Donald Trump knows that every time he posts an outrageous tweet that all attention will be focused on that instead of on something that is more important.

There have been many distractions in Washington over the past few weeks, so a major story has been ignored when it should have still been making headlines.

Yesterday the New York Times reported that the number of migrant children being held in custody by the U.S. government is now at its highest level ever, but these children are being ignored. They should not be ignored.

To her credit, Nancy Pelosi has recently reminded the media of the gravity of the situation, as she called the administration’s policy toward migrant children “inhumane.”

According to government data obtained by the Times there are currently 12,800 children being detained in federal custody right now, the highest number ever. In May of 2017 there were just 2,400 migrant children in federal custody.

There seem to be numerous reasons that so many children are still in the “baby jails” as they are called. According to the government it is not because more children are being arrested or taken from their parents right now, but is because fewer children are being released from custody.

Laws require that unaccompanied children be placed with sponsors who meet certain requirements. Historically, children have been released to the custody of parents or extended family members upon entering the U.S., but that has changed under Trump.

Now the Trump administration has a new rule that began in June requiring sponsors of detained children to first be fingerprinted. Unless this occurs, they cannot pick up children. Fingerprint information of course is then shared with immigration officials.

Since many family members who want to be sponsors do not have proper legal documentation, they generally are reluctant to be fingerprinted because this would risk their deportation.

So the answer is to just keep the migrant children in jail indefinitely.

After the Times report, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a statement saying;

“The number of unaccompanied alien children apprehended are a symptom of the larger problem, namely a broken immigration system, and HHS has a rigorous system for vetting sponsors out of concern for children’s safety.”

“Because children who enter the country illegally are at high risk for exploitation by traffickers and smugglers, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at HHS’ Administration for Children and Families maintains high standards for vetting children’s sponsors for the safety and well-being of the child.”

“Demographic and other factors affecting how long children remain in care fluctuate over time, but ORR consistently acts to ensure sponsors are screened appropriately for the protection of children.”

Earlier this month President Trump announced plans to withdraw from a court agreement that puts strict limits on the U.S. government’s detention of migrant children. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at the time said:

“This is another inhumane assault on families and children. It’s a wrong decision that he made…I completely disagree with what the president has done.”

Many other people also disagree with what Trump is doing to migrant children, but he doesn’t care, because he has learned that the more cruel he is, the more his base of political supporters approves of his actions. Hopefully the nightmare of the Trump presidency will be over soon.