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Just under a year after backlash to the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy of separating families at the border caused the president to reverse course, conditions remain dire for migrants entering U.S. custody.
On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that the Office of Refugee Resettlement has begun to cancel legal aid, English classes and other activities for unaccompanied minors in custody. A federal official told The Post that these services are “not directly necessary” for migrant children’s lives and safety, and due to a looming funding shortage, they needed to redirect the money.
And with two new deaths announced last week, at least seven migrants have died in American custody since October, according to USA Today. One of those seven was Johana Medina Leon, a transgender woman who was held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention for seven weeks, before being released to a hospital. NBC News reported in January that at least 22 migrants have died after spending time in custody over the past two years.
In response to Leon’s death, ICE offered this:
“This is yet another unfortunate example of an individual who illegally enters the United States with an untreated, unscreened medical condition,” Corey A. Price, field office director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations in El Paso, said in a statement.
“There is a crisis at our southern border with a mass influx of aliens lured by the lies of human smugglers who profit without regard for human life or well-being. Many of these aliens attempt to enter the United States with untreated or unknown diseases, which are not diagnosed until they are examined while in detention.”
Some of those people are children. A fifth migrant child died in Texas in May.
Dara Lind, a reporter for Vox, explained:
Children are dying in CBP custody because more children are in CBP custody, for longer, than ever before. No one believes that’s a good or safe place for them to be. But no one can agree on what the alternative is.
Migrants are often held in “hieleras” — the “frigid, cramped holding cells in Customs and Border Protection facilities.”
Here is what one looks like.
This is exactly how people who’ve experienced hieleras have described them for years: dangerously overcrowded. The inspector general’s new report contains this image from a Texas border patrol station, where a space for 12 is holding 76. That’s the bathroom in the back, too. pic.twitter.com/674LGUBBsi
— Aura Bogado (@aurabogado) May 31, 2019
The Trump administration is also attempting to leverage the Mexican government economically to curb the flow of migrants over the border. Last week, they announced five percent tariffs on goods imported from Mexico. This move generated pushback from some Republican lawmakers, like Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)
Here’s what Sen. Cornyn said on the Senate floor:
It’s important to remember that any actions that we take to secure our Southern border must also keep in mind the important role that Mexico plays in the economy of the United States … [m]y state enjoys a strong relationship economically with Mexico because of that 1,200-mile common border.
How are migrants being treated? Will Congress take action to address the situation?
We bring you the latest from the border.
Produced by Kathryn Fink.
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