14 and Alone: The Girls Risking Everything to Get to America

Singing happily into the wind, 14-year-old Karla Vazquez looks like a carefree teenager embarking on a day trip. It is an exciting moment after all – it’s the first time the youngster has ever left home and the first time she has traveled alone.

But the reality is chilling – she may not know it, but Karla is embarking on a path that for many young women ends in rape, abuse and forced prostitution. She is no longer free – she is now “human cargo” under the control of a people smuggler who is guiding her group on a truck from Guatemala to Mexico, with the US border their ultimate destination.

But she does not appear to be perturbed as she braves the perilous mountain paths in the naive hope of securing a better future for her family.

Read more at SkyNews. 

Separated by Trump, All a Little Girl Remembers About America: ‘They Took My Dad and Locked Him Up’

With an impish smile, 5-year old Filomena draws up her right hand and fashions herself into a cattle driver. She designates her three-year old cousin the unenviable role of bull. “The bull that’s going to the United States,” Filomena proclaims in Spanish, directing her cousin-turned-bull through the family’s one-room, floorless wooden hut.

It’s unclear whether she thinks the U.S. is a promised land or something more sinister.

To Filomena’s family, it’s both: The country where one person can earn twice as much in one hour on minimum wage as the entire family makes in a day selling potatoes. The country where four Border Patrol officers forcibly separated Filomena from her father and then sent her to live for nearly three months in a shelter in New York City before deporting her. The country Filomena’s father would like to return to even after being wrenched from his daughter, because despite everything that happened, and even though he would like to remain with his family intact in Guatemala, he sees no hope.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

The Five-Year-Old Who Was Detained at the Border and Persuaded to Sign Away Her Rights

Helen—a smart, cheerful five-year-old girl—is an asylum seeker from Honduras. This summer, when a social worker asked her to identify her strengths, Helen shared her pride in “her ability to learn fast and express her feelings and concerns.” She also recounted her favorite activities (“playing with her dolls”), her usual bedtime (“8 p.m.”), and her professional aspirations (“to be a veterinarian”).

In July, Helen fled Honduras with her grandmother, Noehmi, and several other relatives; gangs had threatened Noehmi’s teen-age son, Christian, and the family no longer felt safe. Helen’s mother, Jeny, had migrated to Texas four years earlier, and Noehmi planned to seek legal refuge there. With Noehmi’s help, Helen travelled thousands of miles, sometimes on foot, and frequently fell behind the group. While crossing the Rio Grande in the journey’s final stretch, Helen slipped from their raft and risked drowning. Her grandmother grabbed her hand and cried, “Hang on, Helen!” When the family reached the scrubland of southern Texas, U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehended them and moved them through a series of detention centers. A month earlier, the Trump Administration had announced, amid public outcry over its systemic separation of migrant families at the border, that it would halt the practice. But, at a packed processing hub, Christian was taken from Noehmi and placed in a cage with toddlers. Noehmi remained in a cold holding cell, clutching Helen. Soon, she recalled, a plainclothes official arrived and informed her that she and Helen would be separated. “No!” Noehmi cried. “The girl is under my care! Please!”

Noehmi said that the official told her, “Don’t make things too difficult,” and pulled Helen from her arms. “The girl will stay here,” he said, “and you’ll be deported.” Helen cried as he escorted her from the room and out of sight. Noehmi remembers the authorities explaining that Helen’s mother would be able to retrieve her, soon, from wherever they were taking her.

Read more at The New Yorker. 

Justice Dept., in DC Circuit, Denies ‘Undue Burden’ on Immigrant Girls Seeking Abortions

An earlier ruling from Brett Kavanaugh against a pregnant immigrant teenager became a flashpoint for his views on the lawfulness of the right to an abortion.

A U.S. Justice Department lawyer, arguing Wednesday for the Trump administration, rejected claims that the government has imposed any “undue burden” on the ability of pregnant, undocumented minors from having access to abortions while in government custody.

Read more at The National Law Journal.

Immigrants, Fearing Trump Crackdown, Drop Out of Nutrition Programs

Both documented and undocumented immigrants fear that accepting federal aid could make them ineligible for a green card if rules are changed.

Immigrants are turning down government help to buy infant formula and healthy food for their young children because they’re afraid the Trump administration could bar them from getting a green card if they take federal aid.

Local health providers say they’ve received panicked phone calls from both documented and undocumented immigrant families demanding to be dropped from the rolls of WIC, a federal nutrition program aimed at pregnant women and children, after news reports that the White House is potentially planning to deny legal status to immigrants who’ve used public benefits. Agencies in at least 18 states say they’ve seen drops of up to 20 percent in enrollment, and they attribute the change largely to fears about the immigration policy.

The Trump administration hasn’t officially put the policy in place yet, but even without a formal rule, families are already being scared away from using services, health providers say.

Read more at Politico.

A 5-Year-Old Girl in Immigrant Detention Nearly Died of an Untreated Ruptured Appendix

The death of a Guatemalan child soon after leaving immigration detention made national news this week amid speculation that conditions in detention were responsible for her demise. It is not clear why 19-month-old Mariee Juárez became fatally ill, or if she suffered medical neglect at the South Texas Residential Center, the family detention center better known as “Dilley.” Her family alleges that Mariee became ill due to unsafe conditions and died as a result of medical neglect.

At a different South Texas detention center, another young Guatemalan child recently came down with a common illness that is easy to identify in its early stages but which can kill if not diagnosed and treated. Treatment was delayed for days, however, and the delay put the little girl’s life at risk. And less than three months before that little girl became sick, a Honduran man who spent time at the same facility died from a life-threatening illness that was not diagnosed.

The child and the man were locked up at the infamous Border Patrol detention center in McAllen, Texas, where immigrants are kept for a few days before they are transported to long-term detention centers run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The McAllen center is notorious for putting detainees in cage-like rooms and, during the recent “zero tolerance” period, for separating parents from their children. Immigrants know it as “the icebox” and “the dog pound.”

Read more at The Intercept.

 

Mother Blames Poor Medical Care at Immigration Detention Facility for Death of her Toddler

When Yazmin Juarez crossed the Rio Grande with her 18-month-old daughter on March 1, she planned to join her mother in New Jersey, where she hoped her baby girl would grow up at a safe distance from the violence roiling their native Guatemala.

But Juarez, 20, and her daughter, Mariee, were stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents. They were held for three weeks at an immigrant detention center in Dilley, Texas, where Mariee fell ill.

By the time they were released, Mariee was coughing, vomiting and battling a high fever. Juarez rushed her daughter to a hospital in Edison a day after landing at Newark Liberty International Airport on March 25, but Mariee spent her final weeks fighting for her life before she suffered a fatal hemorrhage on May 10.

Now lawyers representing the family say they plan to sue multiple agencies associated with the immigrant detention center where Mariee started showing symptoms of an upper respiratory illness, alleging they provided inadequate care that led to Mariee’s death.

Read more at USA Today. 

Color of Change Action For Immigrant Girl Sexually Abused in Detention Center

A message from Color of Change:

Trump is doing everything in his power to distract from his responsibility for the inhumane practice of separating families at the border. He is even threatening to shut down the federal government if Congress refuses to fund a wall across the Mexico border. His antics will not distract us from the fact that he is pouring over $40 million into an immigrant youth housing facility that just made headlines for their long history of child abuse—including recently allowing a six-year-old girl to be repeatedly sexually abused. Southwest Key is denying the allegations and blaming it on fake news. Yet, uncovered internal documents prove the incident did happen and abuse is rampant at the facility.

A nonprofit caring for over 1,600 vulnerable children housed at 26 shelters in Arizona, California, and Texas must enforce practices and procedures that protect children, not neglect them. Trump’s hate-filled administration will not keep immigrant children safe. It’s up to us to protect them.

Tell the Arizona, California, and Texas Health and Human Services Department: Freeze Southwest Key funding until an investigation of child abuse is conducted and all involved staff are held accountable.

On May 24, a six-year-old girl, identified as D.L., arrived to the United States with her mother attempting to flee gang violence in their home country of Guatemala. Under the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, D.L. was separated from her mother a few days after they arrived, taken to Southwest Key in Arizona where she suffered sexual abuse several times.

Scared and alone, the little girl had little to no contact with her parents. D.L’s father was contacted about the incident, but was only told basic facts of the case and was not able to communicate with his daughter or any staff involved. D.L.’s mother remained helpless as she was detained at a separate facility miles away. Fortunately, immigrant rights activists helped get D.L. and her mother released and reunited them with D.L.’s father in California. However, most children aren’t as lucky.

Tell Health and Human Services Officials: Take action to protect immigrant children!

Immigrant children are OUR children too. Many immigrants from the Caribbean, including Haiti, frequently enter through the southern U.S-Mexico border. In fact, the leading plaintiffs in the well-known ACLU’s lawsuit against the Trump administration for its “zero tolerance” policy are a Congolese mother and daughter. Black immigrants continue to experience racial profiling by the police, compounded criminal charges and discriminatory sentencing, increasing their chances of later being detained and deported. It is clear that Trump’s America doesn’t care about any Black people, immigrant or not. That’s why it is our duty to fight for our safety.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, the ACLU identified hundreds of cases of abuse of immigrant children in US custody in the past five years. There have been reports of children being drugged, sexually molested, enduring torturous hot summers in unairconditioned rooms in Texas and more. Abuse, especially sexual abuse, is rampant in youth detention centers and will only continue to get worse under Trump’s anti-immigration era that shows no remorse for immigrant victims of injustice.

“There seems to be a level of cruel intent I’ve never seen before and a real indifference to the well-being of a child,”

— Holly Cooper, Immigration Law Clinic at University of California

The Department of Justice, under the leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, continues to dehumanize immigrants and has even proposed a rule that explicitly excludes immigration detention facilities from coverage under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), legislation designed to protect sexual violence in detention centers.6 With an agenda rooted in white supremacy, there is no federal government oversight to combat the surge of immigrant child abuse. The protection of our children lies in our hands.

Demand Arizona, California, and Texas: Freeze Southwest Key funding now!

Until justice is real,

Enchanta, Rashad, Arisha, Scott, Erika, Clarise, Marybeth, Siera, Anay, Kristen, Marena, Tamar and the rest of the Color Of Change team

Police: Worker at Child Immigration Facility Molested Teen

A worker at a nonprofit organization that houses immigrant children separated from their parents at the border has been booked on suspicion of molesting a 14-year-old girl at its one of its facilities in Phoenix, police said Wednesday. Southwest Key, which operates the facility, declined to say whether the 14-year-old girl was an immigrant who was separated from her parents at the border.

Read more at WTOP.

6-Year-Old Girl Separated From Family Was Allegedly Sexually Abused at Immigration Detention Center

A young girl separated from her family by the Trump administration’s immigration policy has been sexually abused twice by an older child in a government-funded facility, according to a new report.

The Nation was informed of the abuse by immigrant-rights activists and the girl’s parents. The magazine also obtained detention center documents appearing to show that the girl was told to stay away from her abuser after the first incident.

Read more at Fortune