LatinaLista — Last week, the Center for Public Policy Priorities released the most in-depth study on the attitude of the U.S. federal government towards undocumented children who are caught illegally entering the country without their parents.
The report, A Child Alone and Without Papers, contained a number of very disturbing revelations.
From children being mistreated by U.S. immigration authorities to Mexican children deported in the back of trucks.
Yet, the most appalling incident cited in this report was how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) purposely stonewalled, denied or ignored repeated requests and Freedom of Information Act requests to gather the necessary data to help with this report.
Their actions underscore the need for an initial course of action before the abuses and neglect of the undocumented children can be addressed — a dismantling of the Department of Homeland Security.
In an attempt to analyze policies, procedures, and statistics pertaining to the removal and repatriation of unaccompanied children from Mexico and Honduras, we submitted seven Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). These requests, submitted in June 2007, ranged from inquiries regarding basic statistics to training materials for immigration staff to international agreements.
Six requests were either denied or responses were extended well beyond the publication of this study. Various reasons were given for the denial of a request or the delay in a response. For example, the department combined four separate unrelated requests under one FOIA case number and then responded that the request was too long to respond to within the standard time limits.
One request was closed for reasons that are unclear.
Interviews and Correspondence with Agency Personnel in the United States
We also sought interviews from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) within DHS; the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) within the Department of Health and Human Services; and the Executive Office on Immigration Review (EOIR) within the Department of Justice, for clarification on agency policy. The aforementioned agencies are the main bodies involved in the apprehension, care, or return of children.
ICE, CBP, and EOIR denied interviews without providing a reason, though the Department of Homeland Security, home to ICE and CBP, eventually offered to respond to direct written requests, outside of the FOIA process. After delays and the intervention of a U.S. Congressman, ICE responded to our direct written inquiries. As this report went to press, CBP had not responded to any of the study’s written requests, which were submitted in November 2007.
One can only surmise given the uncooperative responses of the DHS that they either believe themselves to be above the law or are hiding facts they know would be detrimental to themselves and this administration in its last days.
Though DHS dismisses this report, because after all, it’s only about undocumented children, the American public, who still believe that children are precious and deserve to be protected by the adults of this world and retain inalienable rights of protection regardless of country or economic or citizenship status, should begin to hold this department and administration accountable for the way they have recklessly endangered the lives and rights of these children once they are in U.S. custody.
The report, in academic fashion, is a full blown expose on how our government handles the children in custody and it illustrates that, as we stand now as a nation, we don’t practice a child-friendly policy.
It’s yet another example of how low our moral conscience has deteriorated in this country, especially in light of the news that we are deporting these children, in some cases, in the dead of night and abandoning them on the streets of border towns where they risk being raped, kidnapped and abused by any stranger who happens to find them.
We are a better country than this — and we can’t afford to wait till January 20, 2009 to prove it.