Even the Trump administration shouldn't have to be told that children need clean water, soap, and toothbrushes.
In a ruling that should never have needed to happen, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the Trump administration must give the migrant children it jailed essential personal hygiene items.
In June, the Trump legal team told the appellate court that it didn't have to provide soap or toothbrushes to the kids it locked up, depending on the length of their stay in the detention facilities in the Rio Grande Valley — as if there was a stay short enough that children shouldn't be allowed to bathe. They also argued that it was just fine that children were being forced to sleep on concrete floors with no blankets.
The appellate judges were visibly skeptical that the Department of Justice made such an argument, with Judge Marsha Berzon asking the DOJ attorney, "You're really going to stand up and tell us that not being able to sleep isn't a question of safe and sanitary conditions?"
Given the judges' reaction, it wasn't surprising that the appellate court upheld a lower court decision that had found a litany of unsafe and unsanitary conditions at the border facilities. Children were not receiving "hot, edible, or a sufficient number of meals" and had no access to clean drinking water. They had filthy bathroom facilities, no clean bedding, and no toothbrushes, soap, or towels. The lower court also found, and the appellate court agreed, that the children also endured sleep deprivation because of overcrowding, a lack of bedding, cold temperatures, and constant lighting.
The appellate court took particular issue with the government's failure to feed the children, saying that its inattention to doing so was "egregious" and the government wasn't even complying with its own standards, much less something set by the court.
It's astonishing that the government needed to be told that when it locks up children it has to provide them with the bare minimum of personal hygiene and comfort. Astonishing, but these days, not remotely surprising.
The administration does have the option to appeal this ruling to the United States Supreme Court, but hopefully, that's a bridge too far, even for Trump.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.