7-year-old migrant girl dies in US Border Patrol custody

The headline alone made my heart sink. “7-year-old migrant girl taken into Border Patrol custody dies of dehydration, exhaustion.” I felt a wave of deep sadness, but no surprise.

The girl was reportedly taken into United States Border Patrol custody last week along with her father. More than eight hours later, she began having seizures. Emergency responders measured her temperature at 105.7 degrees, and according to the Border Patrol, she had not had anything to eat or drink for several days.

Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch reported how the US Border Patrol is harming children and families by detaining them in inhumane jail-like conditions. Migrant families commonly call the border jails hieleras, or freezers, for their frigid temperatures. These sometimes lack sufficient beds for families, leaving children to sleep on cold concrete floors.

None of this is new. In my five years at Human Rights Watch, I’ve spoken with countless migrants, including families, about their experiences in these abusive detention centers. One asylum-seeking mother detained with her 18-month old told me this summer that she was worried her daughter was dehydrated. “I’m having a hard time making enough milk, because I’m not getting enough food,” she said. “And I don’t want to ask for a doctor because I’m afraid it will hurt my case.”

Another mom from Guatemala I interviewed after she was released from Border Patrol custody in Arizona in 2014 had been detained with her 10-year-old US citizen son. She was bringing him to the US to seek medical care. Her son has a disability that makes it impossible for him to walk, talk, or chew and requires that he eat liquefied food. During their three days in CBP detention, Border Patrol provided no food that her son could eat. “He fainted twice,” the woman said. “I was very worried. I said I needed help and Border Patrol said I couldn’t get help.”

This brave mother put her finger on exactly the problem with US Border Patrol jails. They are built to punish – not to help – and that includes children like the 7-year-old who died last week. Authorities should urgently investigate her case, but more broadly, the US government should be asking itself why children are in these cells in the first place.

[Clara Long, Human Rights Watch]

New California governor stands with migrants, vows to withdraw troops from border

A month out from his inauguration, California Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom is staking out his own ground when it comes to immigration policy and relations with Mexico:

“What’s the point of our National Guard being there at this point? I can’t see any,’’ he told POLITICO in a phone interview from Mexico as he prepared to attend the inauguration of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. He said he would review current National Guard commitments — those made by Governor Brown under pressure from President Donald Trump. Those commitments are set to extend until March 31.

But Newsom said he believed those troops could be far better utilized. “There’s plenty for them to do on the Camp fire and recovery efforts,’’ as well as “on the humanitarian front’’ where the immediate need for shelter, food and medical care is clearly “not going away anytime soon,’’ he said.

Newsom directly challenged Trump’s characterization of migrant caravans at the border as a national security emergency and said the president should be “showing up and meeting” refugees to see for himself the immediate scope of a severe humanitarian crisis developing there.

“I don’t care who you are, Republican or Democrat,’’ said Newsom, who said he was shaken by the stories and desperate conditions of very young children and refugees at a border detention center, where he spoke with them directly. “The empathy, on a human level has to be considered here.” He said he was also deeply concerned to see hoards of desperate migrants at the border have no legal representation as they seek asylum, many from dangerous situations in Central America. They need “the benefit of some legal aide.“

Newsom said he will explore a role for California’s Office of Emergency Services to aid refugees who have already arrived in California and hopes to assist services being offered by nonprofit groups like the Salvation Army.

Newsom challenged Trump’s threats to close the border at length — purportedly because of security issues related to the caravans — saying it would have potentially catastrophic economic effects on California and the nation as a whole. Newsom also called on state, local and regional officials to immediately address the plight of migrants, some of who are awaiting asylum claims, and whom he said he learned are being dropped off by ICE in San Diego without shelter, food or medical treatment. The situation, he said, has left many vulnerable to human trafficking, crime and health issues that could impact California communities.

The Governor-elect has suggested he would take an interactive approach with the Mexican government and revive commissions and trade offices. Newsom appears to be culturally tied to California’s neighbor to the south: His wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, speaks fluent Spanish and speaks the language to their four children at home, believing fluency in the language to be critical in a border state.

[Politico]