A new report from Reuters on Friday revealed that President Donald Trump's anti-immigration policies have sent 13,000 children—including over 400 infants—to tent cities on the Mexican side of the southern U.S. border via its Migrant Protection Protocols rule.
"The so-called Migrant 'Protection' Protocols are the latest installment of a racist US border enforcement strategy that uses death and suffering to deter Central Americans fleeing situations of violence and poverty *created in large part by US policies*," tweeted advocacy group No More Deaths.
@DHSgov said last month they would not be making an exception for families when it comes to the "Remain in Mexico" policy. Deep reporting by my former colleagues shows 400 infants have been sent back to poor conditions, where they face dehydration. https://t.co/ljdwnlu1ak?
— Julia E. Ainsley (@JuliaEAinsley) October 11, 2019
Reuters analyzed data from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the Department of Justice office that oversees immigration courts, to find the number of children sent over the border. Of the 13,000 children sent to Mexico in 2019, over 3,400 were under the age of five and 418 were less than a year old.
The news outlet decided to dig into the data after the administration refused to answer questions on how the protocols, which send asylum seekers to Mexico while they await hearings, are affecting migrants.
Since January, the U.S. government has ordered 13,000 migrants under 18, including hundreds of infants, to wait with their families in Mexico for immigration court hearings. Read more: https://t.co/w8BgnEydox pic.twitter.com/vfZhk84zJ3
— Reuters India (@ReutersIndia) October 11, 2019
"The U.S. government would't tell us how many children and babies had been sent back to wait in Mexico, often in dangerous conditions, under the Migrant Protection Protocols, so we went and found it out," reporter Mica Rosenberg said on Twitter.
Conditions in the tent cities, reported Reuters, are dire:
Blanca Aguilar, a 27-year-old mother from Guatemala, is living in a makeshift encampment of around 40 small tents cramped together in the back rooms of a church outside Tijuana, across the border from San Diego. Children can be heard coughing and crying throughout the night, she and other mothers told Reuters during a recent visit.
When one gets sick, they all do, Aguilar said. Her two-year-old son Adrian has had a recurrent cough with wheezing, as well as bouts of diarrhea, since they arrived in August.
Readers were shocked at the cruelty in the report.
"One mom describes arriving at the border with her 8 month old with a serious lung condition and explaining that condition to border agents," said National Immigrant Justice Center policy director Heidi Altman. "The agents sent the family back to Mexico, where they're sleeping on the floor of a crowded shelter."
Ashoka Mukpo, a reporter for the ACLU, said on Twitter that the Reuters report confirmed what he saw on the border.
"This tracks with what I've seen in Juarez this week," tweeted Mukpo. "Every shelter I've visited has been absolutely full of very young children."
EXCLUSIVE: Mothers returned to Mexico to wait for U.S. immigration court hearings say their babies are frequently getting sick in shelters and tents along the border https://t.co/hDyGmPGe6G via @readelev @micarosenberg @kristinacooke pic.twitter.com/GVeWpd9j69
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) October 11, 2019
In a call to action, Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights advocate Jennifer Nagda said that the damage from the protocols was already beyond saving for some victims.
"Our government is intentionally placing children in harm's way," said Nagda. "Some of these children will not recover."
Please, today: READ this. SHARE it w/your network. Then CALL AND WRITE your members of Congress and tell them "Remain in Mexico" must end now. Our gov't is intentionally placing children in harm's way. Some of these children will not recover. https://t.co/MTR3GpNrU7
— Jennifer Nagda (@JenniferNagda) October 11, 2019