Horror on the Border: Slew of Recent Incidents Highlight Human Rights Crisis

Central American migrants cross the Rio Grande river in Ciudad Juarez, state of Chihuahua, Mexico, on June 12, 2019, before turning themselves to US Border Patrol agents to ask for asylum. (Photo: Herika Martinez/AFP/Getty Images)

Horror on the Border: Slew of Recent Incidents Highlight Human Rights Crisis

More bad news from the southern border

There has been a steady stream of heartbreaking news at the southern border under the President Donald Trump administration, including the jailing of children and deaths of detained migrants.

Five stories in just the last several days punctuate the crisis:

The four month-old baby separated from his father at the border

The New York Timesreported Friday that the youngest child taken from his parents at the southern border over the past three years under the Trump administration's separation policy is four month-old Constantin Mutu, from Romania. Constantine and his father, Vasile, were apprehended in Texas by border patrol agents. Vasile, who has a criminal record, was detained and deported to Romania while Constantin was sent to live with a fister family in Michigan.

Eventually, the family was reunited--mother Florentina and the couple's four year-old son got lost in Mexico and returned to Romania to join the couple's other three children ahead of Vasile and Constantin--but the case shows how the administration isn't bound by age in separating families and raises questions about who else is in custody.

The teen mother and her one month-old who were neglected by CBP agents

HuffPost reported Thursday that a teenage mother and her one month old were basically ignored for a week by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents until being transferred to a resettlement facility after the neglectful treatment became public.

Lawyer Hope Frye was one of those who raised alarm over the treatment of both children, she told HuffPost, after finding that the mother had received pain medication and that the baby had not had any medical attention for the time she was held by CBP:

Frye said one of her colleagues, an immigrant rights advocate, told her on Wednesday that the baby had not cried for five hours and had become "weak and listless." The advocate, according to Frye, said that since the infant was wrapped only in a towel she was concerned her body temperature was dropping, which can be fatal.

As HuffPost reporter Angelina Chapin noted, medical experts are on record saying that "Border Patrol centers are not a safe place for kids, in part because no thorough medical assessments are provided by pediatricians and diseases can spread quickly in the environment."

CBP texts show culture of hate

That treatment isn't much of a surprise given revelations from text messages between CBP agents that show a culture of bigotry and hate. The messages, which were made public in court filings from a case in Arizona where a CBP agent is accused of murder, contain offensive and dehumanizing language and point to an agency environment where seeing migrants as the enemy was encouraged.

As Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson reported Thursday, the racism in the language used by CBP agents extends to the general name they have for migrants:

Throughout the texts, illegal border crossers are referred to as "tonks." A federal court case from 2004, which also centered on accusations of excessive force by the Border Patrol, includes an agent's definition of "tonk" as "the sound heard when a 'wetback' is hit over the head with a flashlight."

While CBP defenders claim the term refers to "Territory of Origin Unknown," Dickinson cites a ProPublicapiece from May that mentioned CBP abuse of children by hitting their heads with a flashlight as an indication that at the very least the practice is understood as a tactic within the agency.

Seven-year-old girl dies on Arizona border

A seven-year-old girl believed to be from India died on the southern border in Arizona. Her body was found Wednesday morning.

A woman and an eight-year-old, believed to be traveling with the dead girl, were detained by CBP early Friday morning.

Immigrant rights advocates said the death was near where activists from the group No More Deaths--including Scott Warren, whose trial for providing aid to migrants ended in a mistrial Tuesday--had left water and food until being shut down by CBP. CBP agents told local media they were "heartbroken" by the child's death.

The death marks the second time a seven-year-old died while trying to cross the border. In December 2018, a Guatemalan child of the same age died in CBP custody, one of at least six recent deaths of children in U.S. custody.

Tech companies are enabling the deportation machine

According to immigration rights advocates from RAICES, companies that are assisting the government's border activities are enabling "a machine of deportation."

In comments to the Code Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona on Tuesday, RAICES CEO Jonathan Ryan and chief advocacy officer Erika Andiola excoriated tech companies for helping the government enact its harsh policies on immigrants.

"The government could not do what it is doing now without them," said Ryan of the tech companies.

"What we've seen is a scaling up and a quickening of the efficiency of this tyrannical operation," he added.

Tech companies are profiting from their cooperation with the deportation machine, but, said Ryan, there will be a reckoning.

"If tech wants to walk hand in hand with our government in this experiment in tyranny, then go for it," Ryan said. "But we will be here when that music is over, and there will be no chair for them to sit when everybody is sitting down."

Watch Ryan and Andiola's talk:

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.