This story was written by Dottie Laster and originally posted at Anti Trafficking News by Dottie Laster
According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) there is a need for emergency shelters due to an increase in the number of unaccompanied minors crossing into the United States. One of the solutions that ORR is using is to detain children at Lackland Air Force Base. According to ORR they have just over 200 children housed at the Air Force base (see the New York Times story). According to the story, border apprehensions overall have declined; there were 340,252 nationwide last fiscal year, down from 1.2 million in 2005. The small increase of children to cause such extreme measures as housing on an Air Force base seems suspicious.
These children are all in the United States without adults to accompany them. They have been detained by Immigration or Customs and Border Patrol, some as young as 8. Many have been victims of sexual abuse, human trafficking and other crimes. According to the Flores vs Reno Settlement "all minors are to be held in the least restrictive environment, be provided at least 6 hours of education daily, and access to legal services and mental health care. Any minor who is a victim of a violent felony, abused abandoned or neglected or a victim of human trafficking may qualify for immigration relief." According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act trafficking victims are not to be detained or deported.
According to one of the detained children, after the press tour was over the 2 hours of education they were receiving was taken away, the teachers replaced by guards, the board games taken away, the outdoor time evaporated and the children were denied even arts and craft supplies. All this changed after the the single tour of outside observers left. Many non- profit legal service providers have volunteered free legal services to these children only to be rebuffed and denied access.
When remembering the Stanford Prison Experiment, by Dr. Philip Zimbardo, one recalls how college students treated their “captives” in the short time they had power and control over them. It was a lesson for psychologists and sociologists to understand how people behave in the absence of oversight and in the position of detaining others. It could be assumed that groups of people detaining others are susceptible to the actions portrayed in the Stanford Prison Experiment.
When the inequity of immigrant children, being held with no outside representation and advocates, are wards of large bureaucracies who benefit financially from their incarceration then I wonder why anyone would think it is ok to allow these children to be denied legal and psychological services. Why is a detaining organization able to operate unlicensed and in a location where no one can check on the children?
Also, how can 200 immigrants be allowed on an Air Force base? Just to visit a family member who is in the Air Force is a long process which involves many levels if identification. What decision maker combined the U.S. Air Force with detained immigrant children? Does not this suggest an image of the least-in-voice crushed by the most powerful organization in the world? If US citizen-abandoned children were held on a Honduran Air Force base behind guards with no access to legal services, education, or mental health services, would we cry foul? Would we demand their rights be protected? Should we treat all children as carefully as we treat our own?
Lackland AFB a temporary shelter for immigrant children (mySanAntonio.com)
UK Border Agency 'detaining children in degrading conditions' at Heathrow (guardian.co.uk)
DEA admits to role in deadly Honduras helicopter shooting (cbsnews.com)
US DEA Agents Kill Up to Six Civilians in Honduras (news.antiwar.com)
Reverberations from drug raid felt in US, Honduras (kansascity.com)
Hondurans attack Government buildings, demand U.S. leave (redantliberationarmy.wordpress.com)