Al Jazeera article exposes disturbing legacy of US 'baby jails' for refugee children

08 Apr 2023 09:15pm
Photo for illustration purposes only - Source: 123RF
Photo for illustration purposes only - Source: 123RF

DOHA - As the Biden administration is reportedly considering once again detaining families that illegally cross into the United States, an opinion published by Al Jazeera highlighted the troubling history of human rights violations committed by the U.S. government against migrants.

"Cages and cells have been a feature of the U.S. immigration system, under one euphemism or another, since the 19th century," Sarah Towle, an author and educator, wrote in an opinion piece published by Al Jazeera on Thursday.

Towle specifically pointed to the infamous T. Don Hutto Detention Center, known as the "baby jail," which was first established during the George W. Bush administration to incarcerate refugee children.

Although the centre was closed in 2009 due to reported rights violations, the Obama administration subsequently opened three more for-profit "baby jails."

Reports from human rights groups revealed that children in these facilities were subjected to harsh conditions, including being confined to their cells for up to 12 hours a day without access to books or toys, facing threats of separation and solitary confinement for "misbehaviour," and being given only 20 minutes to eat food.

Towle further highlighted the detrimental effects of confinement on incarcerated children, including persistent toxic stress resulting in weight loss, hair loss, lethargy, and depression.

Many children exhibited regression in their developmental milestones, with frequent tantrums and bed-wetting being prevalent.

The author also noted that verbal, physical, and sexual abuse further compounded the suffering endured by these imprisoned children, and highlighted that during the years of 2018-2019, when Donald Trump was president, "border cruelty became further entrenched" due to his openly anti-immigrant stance.

The author also noted that Biden, despite his "moral campaigns," is considering the reinstatement of family detention centers, which may be perceived as an attempt to gain political advantage in the upcoming 2024 presidential election.

"Historical transgressions such as family detentions leave indelible moral stains. They should never be repeated," Towle said. - XINHUA