Adam Serwer of The Atlantic got it exactly right last year when he wrote that President Trump and his supporters find community by rejoicing in the suffering of those they hate and fear. The Cruelty Is the Point:
Trump’s only true skill is the con; his only fundamental belief is that the United States is the birthright of straight, white, Christian men, and his only real, authentic pleasure is in cruelty. It is that cruelty, and the delight it brings them, that binds his most ardent supporters to him, in shared scorn for those they hate and fear: immigrants, black voters, feminists, and treasonous white men who empathize with any of those who would steal their birthright. The president’s ability to execute that cruelty through word and deed makes them euphoric. It makes them feel good, it makes them feel proud, it makes them feel happy, it makes them feel united. And as long as he makes them feel that way, they will let him get away with anything, no matter what it costs them.
This is the only thing that can rationally explain the unmitigated cruelty and inhumane mistreatment of migrants seeking asylum in the United States, especially young children.
The Department of Homeland Security inspector general found expired food and dilapidated bathrooms during unannounced visits to four immigrant detention facilities in 2018, according to a report released Thursday.
The kitchen at one facility was in such poor shape — with open packages of raw chicken leaking blood over refrigeration units — that the kitchen manager was replaced while the IG inspection was ongoing.
The report describes conditions at facilities last year, but it comes amid a worsening situation along the US-Mexico border, where the number of migrants crossing the border illegally has surpassed previous years. The dramatic increase in arrivals — the majority of whom are families and children — has overwhelmed the Department of Homeland Security, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency reviewed in the latest report.
CNN was first to report on the IG’s findings.
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The latest report obtained by CNN comes on the heels of a DHS IG report released Friday that found “dangerous overcrowding” and unsanitary conditions at an El Paso, Texas, Border Patrol processing facility following an unannounced inspection last month:
The Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General has found “dangerous overcrowding” and unsanitary conditions at an El Paso, Texas, Border Patrol processing facility following an unannounced inspection, according to a new report.
The IG found “standing room only conditions” at the El Paso Del Norte Processing Center, which has a maximum capacity of 125 migrants. On May 7 and 8, logs indicated that there were “approximately 750 and 900 detainees, respectively.”
“We also observed detainees standing on toilets in the cells to make room and gain breathing space, thus limiting access to the toilets,” the report states. The report was first obtained by CNN.
A cell with a maximum capacity of 12 held 76 detainees, another with a maximum capacity of eight held 41, and another with a maximum capacity of 35 held 155, according to the report.”
(Customs and Border Protection) was struggling to maintain hygienic conditions in the holding cells. With limited access to showers and clean clothing, detainees were wearing soiled clothing for days or weeks,” the report states.
“Corrective action is critical to the immediate health and safety needs of detainees, who cannot continue to be held in standing-room-only conditions for weeks until additional tents are constructed,” the report adds.
Prior to this year’s surge of migrants, some of ICE’s facilities were not up to standard, according to the new IG report. Between May and November 2018, the inspector general visited four ICE facilities: Adelanto ICE Processing Center in California; LaSalle ICE Processing Center in Louisiana; Essex County Correctional Facility in New Jersey; and Aurora ICE Processing Center in Colorado — facilities that in total can hold nearly 5,000 detainees.
“Although the conditions varied among the facilities and not every problem was present at each, our observations, interviews with detainees and staff, and reviews of documents revealed several persistent issues,” the report reads.
The IG observed unsanitary conditions in the bathrooms at the Adelanto and Essex facilities during their surprise visit. “[W]e observed detainee bathrooms that were in poor condition, including mold and peeling paint on walls, floors, and showers, and unusable toilets,” the report reads.
Other issues raised include spoiled food, lack of provisions, like lotion, that is required for detainees, and strip searches with no documented justification. The report notes that ICE detainees “are held in civil, not criminal, custody, which is not supposed to be punitive.”
All four facilities had “food service issues.”
“At Essex, the food handling in general was so substandard that ICE and facility leadership had the kitchen manager replaced during our inspection,” the report reads. At that facility, the IG found open packages of raw chicken leaking blood over refrigeration units, lunch meat that appeared spoiled, and moldy bread.
In a response included in the report, ICE said it has resolved, or worked to resolve, the issues flagged by the IG since the visits. The agency said it is “training staff on proper food handling, removing and replacing menu items with input from detainees, and conducting random food quality testing” at Essex. The agency also reported improvements to food service in the Adelanto ICE Processing Center, which was dinged for food handling issues.
ICE said it’s since made repairs to the bathrooms as well. The agency also acknowledged the lack of some toiletries and said it’s improved the inventory for new detainees.
“Reviews such as this serve to help ICE improve our processes and ensure that our civil detention operations provide a safe and secure environment for both detainees and staff,” ICE said in a statement Thursday.
Three of the four facilities — Adelanto, Aurora, and LaSalle — are owned and operated by the GEO Group.
In a statement to CNN, a spokesperson for the group said, “The findings identified in this report pertaining to GEO-operated facilities were swiftly corrected last year. We take seriously any shortcomings in our delivery of consistent, high-quality care, taking immediate action as needed.”
Some of the conditions observed at Adelanto and Essex facilities were brought to the attention of ICE ahead of Thursday’s report.
A DHS IG report last September laid out concerns about nooses in detainee cells, misuse of solitary confinement and delayed medical care at the Adelanto facility. The alert was part of the ongoing review of ICE’s detention facilities.
Braided bedsheets hanging from vents — referred to as nooses by staff and detainees — were found in about 15 cells inspectors visited, according to the report. That’s a violation of ICE standards, the report says, and “shows a disregard for detainee health and safety.”
One detainee told inspectors: “I’ve seen a few attempted suicides using the braided sheets by the vents and then the guards laugh at them and call them ‘suicide failures’ once they are back from medical.”
ICE said at the time that it had scheduled a contractor to inspect the facility and an additional detention facility review.
These DHS Inspector General investigations demonstrate that the private contractors who operate these detention facilities for ICE are failing miserably with overcrowding and unsanitary conditions.
And there is a new surge of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. that will overwhelm these already overcrowded and unsanitary facilities. Congress needs to step up and provide emergency funding for humane treatment, and to conduct its own investigations of these ICE facilities. These private contractors should not be profiting off of their cruel treatment of migrants in detention.
UPDATE: What could possibly go wrong? Slate reports, Trump Administration Says It Will Open New Mass Facility on Border to Hold Unaccompanied Children:
The Trump administration says it will open a new emergency detention facility to house as many as 1,600 minors that come across the border unaccompanied. The new facility will be fashioned out of an old housing complex along the border for oil field workers in Carrizo Springs, Texas, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement. The move comes after the Trump administration announced Wednesday more than 11,000 of the nearly 133,000 migrants arrested crossing the border last month were unaccompanied children.
“All the new facilities will be considered temporary emergency shelters, so they won’t be subject to state child welfare licensing requirements,” a Department of Health and Human Services spokesman told the Associated Press. “The agency is also weighing using Army and Air Force bases in Georgia, Montana and Oklahoma to house an additional 1,400 kids in the coming weeks, amid the influx of children traveling to the U.S. alone.”
Overall, as of May, HHS said nearly 41,000 children have been referred to the resettlement agency and that 13,200 children are currently in HHS custody. “After being apprehended by the Border Patrol, unaccompanied minors are generally transferred to HHS custody within 72 hours,” CNN reports. “HHS then is tasked with finding a sponsor in the United States for the children, meaning, for example, an immediate family member or relative. The average length of stay is 48 days.”
“The Carrizo Springs facility announced Thursday will consist of hard-sided structures to shelter children and semi-permanent soft-sided structures “for support operations,” according to CNN. “It likely won’t begin to accept children for another month.”