This is the worst infamy of the Trump administration and it is played largely out of sight. In migrant detention centers, the treatment of children is the most striking example of the dehumanizing nature of White House policy. Shaped by the ideologist Stephen Miller, it aims to dissuade Central Americans and Mexicans to emigrate to the United States by showing them that nothing good is waiting for them. The policy of separating children – some of whom will never find their parents – which sparked an uproar last year is part of this logic. Supposed to have been abandoned by the administration, it would continue, accused late July the powerful organization ACLU.
The cruelty inflicted on the youngest in detention centers – where children have been detained indefinitely since last week, with the 20-day limit removed – is another pillar of this strategy. For two years, few (lawyers, pediatricians, elected officials, journalists) have been able to enter. Their testimonies, however, concur and portray conditions of welcome unworthy of American power and history. A lawyer and director of a child protection NGO, Hope Frye was able to visit a border police center in McAllen, Texas, in early June. She saw a 17-year-old Guatemalan mother and her 1-month-old baby born prematurely "Dressed in a dirty body, wrapped in a dirty and shapeless blanket". The infant had been deprived of care. At the end of June, pediatrician Dolly Lucio Sevier examined several children in this center. Including a 4-month-old baby with diarrhea, whose mother had to tinker with two layers, the guards refusing to provide clean clothing, and another 15 months, feverish, fed for days with the same bottle dirty. In the magazine the Atlantic, the doctor describes the smell of perspiration and excrement released by patients, deprived of shower and means to change since their arrest. Of the 38 children examined, none had been able to wash their hands or teeth.
This summer, an investigator from the Seattle District Attorney's Office interviewed some 30 minors who had been sent to detention centers. His report describes children forced to sleep on icy ground and in turn, for lack of space; a teenager having her period, deprived of a shower, limited to a sanitary napkin a day and forced to keep her pants stained with blood, for lack of spares. In July, a report by the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) warned of the risks of overcrowding and prolonged detention of children. Epidemics of scabies, lice, mumps or chickenpox have been reported in recent months in several centers.