‘Greatest Nation on Earth,’ US has world’s highest rate of children in detention: UN study

More than 100,000 children are being held in migration-related detention in the US, a new UN study finds.

Child migrants are seen outside the US Border Patrol McAllen Station in a makeshift encampment in McAllen, Texas in May [File: Loren Elliott/Reuters]
Child migrants are seen outside the US Border Patrol McAllen Station in a makeshift encampment in McAllen, Texas in May [File: Loren Elliott/Reuters]

The United States has the world’s highest rate of children in detention, including more than 100,000 in immigration-related custody that violates international law, the author of a United Nations study said on Monday.

Worldwide more than seven million people under age 18 are held in jails and police custody, including 330,000 in immigration detention centres, independent expert Manfred Nowak said.

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Children should only be detained as a measure of last resort and for the shortest time possible, according to the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty.

“The United States is one of the countries with the highest numbers – we still have more than 100,000 children in migration-related detention in the (US),” Nowak told a news briefing.

“Of course separating children, as was done by the Trump administration, from their parents and even small children at the Mexican-US border is absolutely prohibited by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. I would call it inhuman treatment for both the parents and the children,” he added.

There was no immediate reaction from US authorities. Novak said US officials had not replied to his questionnaire sent to all countries.

‘Inhuman treatement’

Novak said the US had ratified major international treaties such as those guaranteeing civil and political rights and banning torture, but was the only country not to have ratified the pact on the rights of children.

“The way they were separating infants from families only in order to deter irregular migration from Central America to the United States to me constitutes inhuman treatment, and that is absolutely prohibited by the two treaties,” said Nowak, a professor of international law at the University of Vienna.

Child immigration - US
Protesters hold signs outside of the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children while members of Congress tour the facility [File: Lynne Sladky/AP Photo]

The US detains an average of 60 out of every 100,000 children in its justice system or immigration-related custody, Nowak said, the world’s highest rate, followed by countries such as Bolivia, Botswana and Sri Lanka.

Mexico, where many Central American migrants have been turned back at the US border, also has high numbers, with 18,000 children in immigration-related detention and 7,000 in prisons, he said.

The US rate compared with an average of five per 100,000 in Western Europe and 14-15 per 100,000 in Canada, he said.

At least 29,000 children, mainly linked to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) fighters, are held in northern Syria and in Iraq – with French citizens among the biggest group of foreigners, Nowak added.

Even if some of these children had been child soldiers, he said, they should be mainly treated as victims, not perpetrators, so that they could be rehabilitated and reintegrated in society.

Trump’s immigration policy

Since coming to office, US President Donald Trump has implemented a crackdown on immigration. As part of his “zero-tolerance” policy at the border, his government implemented a practice of separating families. Following public outrage, Trump formally ended the practice in June 2018, but immigration advocates say family separation continues in other ways.

Last week, an analysis of US government data by The Associated Press and PBS’s Fronline showed 69,550 migrant children were held in US government custody over the past year.

AP and Frontline also found that children held in government custody spent more time in shelters and away from their families than in previous years.

ICE Family Separation protest file photo
US President Donald Trump has escalated a crackdown on immigration since coming to office [File: Stephanie Keith/Reuters]

In September, a judge blocked new Trump administration rules that would have enabled the government to keep migrant children in detention facilities with their parents indefinitely.

The judge said the rules conflict with a 1997 settlement agreement that requires the government to release immigrant children detained along the border as quickly as possible to relatives in the US and says they can only be held in facilities licensed by a state.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has repeatedly said that detention is not suitable for children, who may suffer numerous negative physical and emotional symptoms.

The Trump administration has faced harsh criticism of its temporary border patrol stations, where lawyers and internal government watch-dogs reported hundreds of children and families were held in squalid conditions.

US: Massachusetts judge charged with helping man evade ICE

Charges mark latest skirmish over immigration enforcement between Trump and local gov’ts that resist his crackdown.
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents enter an apartment complex looking for a specific undocumented immigrant convicted of a felony during an early morning operation in Dallas [File: LM Otero/AP Photo]
US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents enter an apartment complex looking for a specific undocumented immigrant convicted of a felony during an early morning operation in Dallas 

US federal prosecutors on Thursday charged a Massachusetts judge and court officer with conspiracy and obstruction, saying they blocked an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)officer from arresting an undocumented immigrant at a 2018 court proceeding.

The charges mark the latest skirmish over immigration enforcement between US President Donald Trump‘s administration and local governments that have resisted his crackdown.

The charges target Massachusetts District Court Judge Shelley Joseph, 51, and Massachusetts Trial Court Officer Wesley MacGregor, 56, who came under federal investigation last year after authorities said the duo schemed to let the man escape from the Newton court.

ICE intended to arrest the unidentified suspected undocumented immigrant from the Dominican Republic facing a drug charge.

They described a huddled conversation between the judge and the defendant’s lawyer in which Joseph asks, “ICE is gonna get him?” and later says, “I’m not gonna allow them to come in here”.

Joseph then arranged for the suspect to be released through the court’s rear door while the ICE agent waited in the court room’s lobby for him to emerge.

US Supreme Court weighs citizenship question for 2020 census

MacGregor was also charged with perjury for allegedly lying to a grand jury that heard evidence on the case.

Not a political message

Massachusetts US Attorney Andrew Lelling said the case was not intended to send a political message.

“We did not bring this case in response to the public debate over immigration enforcement,” he said. “This is isn’t a policy seminar, it’s a law enforcement action.”

Representatives of the judge and court officer did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters news agency.

The state Supreme Judicial Court suspended Joseph without pay following the charges, noting its move “in no way reflects any opinion on the merits of the pending criminal case”.

The charges carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

The suspect has since been caught and is now in federal custody.

Massachusetts’s top court in 2017 ruled that state police cannot detain undocumented immigrants solely to buy time for federal officials to take them into custody.

Trump says he may ‘call up more’ troops to the US-Mexico border

One of Trump’s top priorities in office has been cracking down on undocumented immigration and he has regularly railed against “sanctuary” cities and states that do not cooperate with all aspects of federal immigration enforcement.

Trump earlier this month floated the idea of busing undocumented migrants stopped at the border to “sanctuary cities”, a move that critics called illustrative of the White House’s callous approach to the issue and some Trump allies called impractical.

Trump Admin to Spend $40 MILLION on New Immigration Detention Camps

APR 19, 2019

H2 immigration detention camps tent cities southern texas

The Trump administration is planning to spend $40 million to build a pair of tent cities to imprison migrant families—including children—in southern Texas. Kevin McAleenan said Wednesday the camps would be temporary, calling them part of a strategy to ease strain on Border Patrol agents in El Paso and at other U.S. ports of entry. Critics say the move is aimed at indefinitely detaining whole families in squalid conditions, in a further bid to deter migrants from seeking asylum in the U.S.

 

Members of group giving food, water to migrants convicted of misdemeanors.

Four members of the group No More Deaths face a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a possible $500 fine.

Four humanitarian aid volunteers were convicted of misdemeanor charges on Friday after leaving food and water for migrants crossing a remote wildlife refuge on the United States-Mexico border in 2017.

Image: Scott Warren
Scott Warren’s trial is due to begin in May.Arizona State University

Four other volunteers with the group No More Deaths are set to go on trial next month and in March over similar charges, the organization said.

A ninth volunteer, Scott Warren, also faces felony harboring and concealment charges after allegedly providing food, water, beds and clean clothes to two undocumented immigrants last year. His trial is scheduled to begin in May.

In Friday’s decision, United State District Court Judge Bernardo Velasco said the volunteers — Natalie Hoffman, Oona Holcomb, Madeline Huse and Zaachila Orozco — hadn’t obtained permits to enter the Cabeza Prieta Refuge and Wilderness Area or followed the Department of Interior’s rules while they were there.

They face a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a possible $500 fine.

No More Death has described the food and water its volunteers leave for the migrants in the 860,000-acre refuge, located west of Tucson, Arizona, as life-saving.

In a news release, the group said that 155 people are known to have died in the area since 2001.

“This verdict challenges not only No More Deaths volunteers, but people of conscience throughout the country,” one of the group’s volunteers, Catherine Gaffney, said in a statement. “If giving water to someone dying of thirst is illegal, what humanity is left in the law of this country?”

Last year, No More Deaths published videos of apparent border agents kicking and emptying water jugs that its volunteers had left in the desert. A report that was co-authored with La Coalición de Derechos Humanos documented what No More Deaths described as the “intentional destruction” of more than 3,000 gallons of water.

Video shows border agents dumping water left for migrants

“If anybody sees any activities like the ones seen in the videos, they need to inform us so we can take the corrective action because it’s not acceptable,” he said.

As punishment, the refuge’s law enforcement officer could have admonished or banned the volunteers from the refuge, Velasco wrote. But in this case, he added, the Department of Interior and Department of Justice authorized their prosecution.

In addition to not obtaining entry permits, Velasco wrote, the volunteers did not remain on designated roads and they left food, water and crates in the refuge — moves that erode the area’s “pristine nature,” he wrote.

“No one in charge of No More Deaths ever informed them that their conduct could be prosecuted as a criminal defense,” Velasco wrote. “The Court can only speculate as to what the Defendants’ decisions would have been had they known the actual risk of their undertaking.”

By Tim Stelloh, NBC

Watchdog: Trump Admin Vastly Underreported Migrant Family Separations

JAN 18, 2019

H1 migrant families

The Trump administration likely separated thousands more children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border than previously reported. That’s the conclusion of the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, which said in a report Thursday that efforts to track those children have been so spotty that the exact number of family separations is unknown. Last summer, a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to reunite families separated by Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy along the southern border; but the inspector general’s report makes clear that many migrant families weren’t identified and reunited as part of the judge’s order.

Arizona: Prosecutors to Investigate Child Abuse at Immigrant Prison

JAN 02, 2019

H5 immigrant prison child abuse

In Arizona, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office referred apparent evidence of abuse at a children’s immigration prison to prosecutors Monday. Last week, a local publication posted surveillance video, reportedly dating from September, from the Hacienda Del Sol detention center in Youngtown, showing staffers dragging, slapping and pushing children. The facility, run by Southwest Key, was shut down at the end of October. The Arizona Department of Health Services had accused Southwest Key in September of failing to provide evidence of staff background checks.

Border Patrol Agents Detain Migrants Near US-Mexico Border

Without Notifying Anyone, ICE Dumps Hundreds of Migrants at El Paso Bus Station Around Christmas!

DECEMBER 27, 2018

U.S. Customs and Border Protection have ordered medical checks on every child in its custody, following the death of two Guatemalan children in recent weeks. On Christmas Eve, an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy named Felipe Gómez Alonso died in New Mexico while in CBPcustody. This follows the death of a 7-year-old indigenous Guatemalan girl, Jakelin Caal Maquín, who died on December 8—also in New Mexico—two days after she and her father presented themselves at the border in a bid for asylum. Meanwhile, authorities in El Paso, Texas, scrambled over the Christmas holiday to assist hundreds of migrant asylum seekers who were dropped off suddenly by ICE officials outside a Greyhound bus terminal without any plan to house them. We speak with Dylan Corbett, executive director of Hope Border Institute, an El Paso-based charity that assists migrants.