I didn’t watch MSNBC last night, but I was told that everyone on it was having a breakdown. The headlines alone tell quite a story —
Trump administration officials have been sending babies and other young children forcibly separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border to at least three â€œtender ageâ€ shelters in South Texas, The Associated Press has learned.
Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the Rio Grande Valley shelters described play rooms ofÂ crying preschool-age childrenÂ in crisis. The government also plans to open a fourth shelter to house hundreds of young migrant children in Houston, where city leaders denounced the move Tuesday. …
… On a practical level, the zero tolerance policy has overwhelmed the federal agency charged with caring for the new influx of children who tend to be much younger than teens who typically have been traveling to the U.S. alone. Indeed some recent detainees are infants, taken from their mothers.
Doctors and lawyers who have visited the shelters said the facilities were fine, clean and safe, but the kids â€” who have no idea where their parents are â€” were hysterical, crying and acting out.
â€œThe shelters arenâ€™t the problem, itâ€™s taking kids from their parents thatâ€™s the problem,â€ said South Texas pediatrician Marsha Griffin, who has visited many.
Taxpayers have paid more than $1.5 billion in the past four years to private companies operating immigrant youth shelters accused of serious lapses in care, including neglect and sexual and physical abuse, an investigation by Reveal and The Texas Tribune has found.
In nearly all cases, the federal government has continued to place migrant children with the companies even after serious allegations were raised and after state inspectors cited shelters with deficiencies, government and other records show.
There’s long been a problem with “unaccompanied minors” who cross the border and must be warehoused somewhere until somebody figures out what to do with them. Creating a new class of unaccompanied minors who were not, in fact, unaccompanied isn’t helping.
President Trumpâ€™s controversial child separation policy is being carried out with the help of private businesses who have received millions of dollars in government contracts to help run the shelters where young migrants are being held away from their parents.
The government has released few photos of the shelters where the children are being detained and at times declined to allow media and even elected officials access to the facilities. Amid this secrecy, many of the businesses participating in the program have remained behind the scenes without being identified.
However, by reviewing publicly available contracts data, Yahoo News was able to identify five companies that are participating in the operation of the shelters, including two companies that have not previously been tied to the program. And in response to inquiries, one of the companies said it would cease participation in a program that required it to â€œmaintain readinessâ€ to transport young migrants to government facilities.
How much do you want to bet that the companies getting these contracts have ties to Republican politicians?
The cost of holdingÂ migrant childrenÂ who have been separated from their parents in newly created “tent cities” is $775 per person per night, according to an official at the Department of Health and Human Services â€” far higher than the cost ofÂ keeping children with their parentsÂ in detention centers or holding them in more permanent buildings.
The reason forÂ the high cost, the official and several former officials told NBC News, is that the sudden urgency to bring in security, air conditioning, medical workers and other government contractors far surpasses the cost for structures that are routinely staffed.
Four days ago, a Homeland Security official proclaimed: â€œWe are not separating babies from parents.â€
Yet in the middle of the night, two baby boys arrived in Grand RapidsÂ after being separated from their immigrant parents at the southern border weeks ago.
One child is 8 months old; the other is 11 months old. Both children have become part of a bigger group of 50 immigrant children who have landed in foster careÂ in western Michigan under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance border policy.
The average age of these childrenÂ isÂ 8,Â a number that has alarmed foster care employees who are struggling to comfort theÂ growing group ofÂ kids who are turning up in Michigan at nighttime, when it’s pitch-dark outside. They’re younger than ever, they say. And they are petrified.
“These kids are arriving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Not only are they being separated from their family, they are being transported to a place that they don’tÂ know in the middle of the night,”Â Â said Hannah Mills, program supervisor for the transitional foster care program at Bethany Christian Services, which is currently assisting the displaced children. “We have found on many occasions that no one has explained to these children where they are going.”
According to Mills,Â some of these displaced children gotÂ picked up right at the airport by aÂ foster family, while others wound up at a foster care center, begging to talk to their parents. Many have gone 30 days or more without talking to their parents because their parents can’t be located, she said.
In recent months, Texas officials have granted permission to at least 15 immigrant youth shelters to cram in more kids than their child-care licenses allow, according to records obtained by theÂ Observer. Two shelters have been approved to hold almost 50 percent more children. The decisions come as the Trump administration separates more and more families at the border, funnelling children reportedly as young asÂ 8 monthsÂ into government shelters.
A spokesperson for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, John Reynolds, said the agency allows shelters to exceed capacity only after reviewing bedspace, the number of children to a bathroom, recreational space and fire inspection compliance. But child advocates argue that the decisions are likely straining staff, endangering children and amount to the state kowtowing to the federal government.
Trumpâ€™s decision to double down on the family-separation policy is sowing chaos in the West Wing, two sources close to the White House told me. For the second day in a row, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sandersâ€”already eyeing an exit, though not for monthsâ€”did not hold an on-camera briefing with reporters. â€œSheâ€™s tired of taking on water for something she doesnâ€™t believe in,â€ a friend of Sanders told me. â€œShe continues to have a frustration that the policies are all over the map,â€ another person close to her said. â€œItâ€™s not a good look for Sarah.â€ …
…Meanwhile, as the border crisis spirals, the absence of a coordinated policy process has allowed the most extreme administration voices to fill the vacuum. White House senior policy adviserÂ Stephen MillerÂ has all but become the face of the issue, a development that even supporters of Trumpâ€™s â€œzero-toleranceâ€ position say is damaging the White House. â€œStephen actually enjoys seeing those pictures at the border,â€ an outside White House adviser said. â€œHeâ€™s a twisted guy, the way he was raised and picked on. Thereâ€™s always been a way heâ€™s gone about this. Heâ€™s Waffen-SS.â€
Making matters worse, Trump doesnâ€™t seem to have an end game for the inhumane policy that isÂ opposedÂ by two-thirds of Americans. Heâ€™s continued to blame Democrats for allowing immigrants toÂ â€œinfestâ€Â the country; while in a closed-door meeting Tuesday night with congressional Republicans, he called on them to end family separation andÂ â€œfixâ€Â the immigration system. Heâ€™s effectively boxed himself into a corner. â€œHe doesnâ€™t like this policy, and he knows itâ€™s not helping him,â€ a Republican whoâ€™s spoken with him said. â€œBut he canâ€™t get within him that this is a problem, and he needs to take ownership of it.â€
Today, Trump may be getting a clue that this is blowing up in his face …
The White House is considering executive action to allow children to stay with parents caught crossing the border illegally, Fox News has learned — a step that could avoid the family separations that have triggered a national outcry and political crisis for Republicans.
The action under consideration would allow children to stay in detention with parents for an extended period of time.
In other words, what was going on before Trump ordered the family separations.
President Trump hinted at the new measure, while holding out hope for legislation, during remarks to reporters during a meeting Wednesday with lawmakers.
“Iâ€™ll be signing something in a little while [to keep families together],” he said, calling the move “somewhat preemptive” and stressing it would “be matched by legislation.” He also said he’s canceling the upcoming congressional picnic, adding:Â “It just didnâ€™t feel right to me.â€
Well, if he’s waiting for legislation …
Senate Republicans calling for an end to the Trump administrationâ€™s policy of separating immigrant parents from their children are pushing legislation that would roll back due process, anti-trafficking and human rights protections â€” something the administration has long sought to accomplish â€” allowing for faster deportations of asylum-seekers and the indefinite detention of minors.
House Republicans, meanwhile, are pushing bills that would do all that,Â slash legal immigration and allocate tens of billions of dollars for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
And, of course, a lot of Democrats would probably sign on to that so that they don’t get blamed for the crying babies, even though Trump was blaming them anyway.
The President says heâ€™sÂ signing an executive orderÂ to end family separations. The actual aim seems to be to pick a fight with the courts and allow separations to continue while blaming judges. According to The New York Times, the President will sign an executive order allowing children to be detained indefinitely with their parents. The problem is that that violates a 1997 consent decree saying that you canâ€™t detain/imprison children for more than 20 days (technically whatâ€™s currently happening isnâ€™t detention). It straight up violates that order. So what will almost inevitably happen is that a court will step in, say you canâ€™t do that and then Trump will announce that the judge is forcing him to keep separating families.