On Tuesday, September 17th, representatives from the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Offices for Civil Rights & Civil Liberties came to Florence Moore 317 to create a dialogue with Menlo College students and address their concerns. The event gave the students that attended the opportunity to converse on issues like border patrol, detention facilities, disaster relief, and DACA. Earlier this year, Menlo signed the Statement in Support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in tandem with higher education institutions across the country, declaring support and enthusiasm for the protection of dreamers. While the event was not “standing room only” those that were in attendance eagerly and passionately expressed their heartfelt concerns to the DHS representatives. The mission of the Department of Homeland Security as stated on their website reads: “The vision of homeland security is to ensure a homeland that is safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other hazards.” It is unlikely that the students present would have agreed with this statement had it been spoken aloud by the representatives.
The conversation continually returned to the protection and care of the children who have come over the U.S.-Mexico border. Recent media images of “children in cages” bombarded the internet and personified the fear of American citizens that DHS detention facilities are unfit and lackluster in their arrangement and security. The influx of non-guardian attended children was the explanation given for such ‘cage’ like habitation. To maintain protection from sexual harassment (there have been such claims, allegedly performed by detention center officials) and the overall safety and privacy of the children they were divided by “barbed wire” in some cases. A measure that was taken due to the lack of supplies available to the facilities.
What defines keeping a child safe? That depends on the length of the stay. There are two categories of “undocumented” children, according to the DHS. The first, accompanied by family (or alleged family). Second, children with no family members or guardians. The children generally stay in facilities for no more than a few hours. It is only when parent-guardians cannot be reached, or one is not assigned, where children are moved to long stay detention facilities. The DHS’ purported objective in these situations is to enable children to have “as normal a life as you can have in an institutional setting.” The official reason for a separated detention hall is to ensure a proper background check on the alleged family or guardian that the child will be staying with. A number of families have not been reunited because individual members were being held for illegal behavior, or had returned to their home countries. In some cases, poor DHS conduct and rudimentary checks resulted in children being turned over to human traffickers and abusive families.
As soon as a child has left Mexico and entered the U.S., it is the the United States Government’s responsibility to ensure their protection.
So, if you see misconduct at a DHS facility or know of family, friends, or others experiencing such strife, what is there to do? Those in attendance were informed that it is important to understand that top management’s involvement in these facilities are “far attached from the field,” so your civic duty to report issues is imperative. The official document is an extensive 14-pages of work to file a complaint with the DHS. However, such complaints can be done with a cellphone via text as well, or through email. You can go to DHS.gov/crcl (Civil rights and Civil liberties) for more information on filing a complaint.
“I understand your frustration” was the chosen phrase of the console when an answer was not known or above the ability of those in attendance. The alternative resolution for any issue spoken was to “tell your local congressman of your frustrations.” The blame in politics and policy is always put on the latter it seems, and yet never gets resolved. When did personal, political gain become more vital than resolving the issues of constituents they serve? Students were unsatisfied with the answers provided. The finger pointing and superiority complex of congressional leaders needs to stop, because political motive is getting in the way of resolving human rights. One of the many vital standards they are responsible of upholding. This nation of “liberty and justice for all” seems to keep its mask firm in times like these, because if it fell off we might just be vulnerable for once.
As of June 20th there were 2,053 undocumented migrant children still in detention facilities. Children are becoming numbers and numbers are not human. Remember their humanity when you read or hear the number 2,053. Each individual soul, pulse, inhale and exhale, unsure of their future in the home of the brave.