The Trump administration's approach to immigrant children is 'characterized by cruelty,' Rep. Judy Chu said.
The Trump administration is looking to build a new baby jail for immigrant children on top of a toxic waste landfill, according to a new report from environmental organization Earthjustice released on Monday. The new facility, designed to detain 7,500 unaccompanied minors, would be built at Goodfellow Air Force Base (GAFB) in Texas.
The area planned for the proposed detention center "is contaminated with lead, arsenic, benzene, PFAS, and other chemicals associated with increased risk of cancer and neurodevelopmental damage," Earthjustice wrote. Additional chemicals at the site emit vapors which can cause "nausea, headaches, and damage to the nervous system, kidneys, and liver."
Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), head of the Congressional Asian and Pacific America Caucus and an outspoken critic of Trump's treatment of immigrant children, slammed the administration for their reckless plan.
"From loopholes that allow them to hire staff without even a background check to this new proposal to build a camp on a toxic dump, the entire approach of this administration towards immigrant children has been characterized by cruelty," Chu said in a statement to Shareblue Media.
The scheme to jail minors on military bases resulted from a June 2018 executive order signed by Trump. The order required the Secretary of Defense — James Mattis at the time — to either use existing facilities or construct a new facility if necessary. At the time, the Daily Beast reported GAFB was among the military facilities under consideration.
But the desire to jail children in such a dangerous environment is not the only example of Trump's inhumane attitude toward immigrants.
Trump's rampant xenophobia hit a peak in the summer of 2018, when his "zero tolerance" policy toward immigrants crossing the southern border led to his administration taking thousands of children away from their parents.
In one of the darkest moments in modern American history, the Trump administration built baby jails to detain infants and toddlers, some of whom were literally ripped from their mothers' arms. Investigations found hundreds of kids held in "unregulated child prisons," according to Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR).
Showing a callous disregard for the children's well-being, the Trump administration didn't bother to track many of the families, resulting in lengthy delays when the administration was forced to reunite them.
Rather than seek a more compassionate immigration policy, Trump is doubling down on cruelty. If the administration follows through on their plans to build a detention center atop a toxic waste dump, it will be "another cruel, misguided, and intentional action that will compound the irreparable damage to the physical and mental well-being of thousands of migrant children being separated from their parents at the border," Laura M. Esquivel, director of National Advocacy for Hispanic Federation, told the Daily Beast.
As members of Congress, Chu and Merkley are not content to merely lambast the administration, they are also determined to hold them accountable. The pair introduced legislation "to end the detention of immigrant children and stop dangerous facilities from existing at all," Chu told Shareblue Media.
The bill, the Shut Down Child Prison Camps Act, is straightforward: It would shut down unregulated child prison camps for children.
In a Feb. 7 press statement about the bill, Chu said she was horrified by what she saw when she visited a child prison camp in Tornillo. "I will never forget the lines of children being forced by guards to march in a single-file line just to go to the bathroom because they were not allowed to go anywhere on their own," she said.
"Our taxpayer dollars are being used to traumatize children by keeping them in child prison camps instead of in homes and communities," Merkley said in a press release about the bill. "This is evil."
Perhaps even more evil is building these child prison camps at toxic waste landfills.
"Migrant children fleeing desperate conditions do not belong in cages," writes Earthjustice, "let alone chemically polluted cages."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.