The Trump administration held a record 69,550 migrant children in U.S. government custody in fiscal 2019, up 42 percent from the previous year, and it detained the children for longer periods of time, The Associated Press and PBS Frontline reported Tuesday. The number of migrant children detained away from their parents also outpaced any other nation in the world, according to United Nations researchers. Canada, for instance, detained 155 separated children in 2018, and Britain sheltered 42 migrant children in 2017; Australia detained 2,000 children during a maritime surge in 2013.
The U.S. government has acknowledged that detaining children can lead to long-term physical and emotional trauma. "Some of these migrant children who were in government custody this year have already been deported," AP reports. "Some have reunited with family in the U.S., where they're trying to go to school and piece back together their lives. About 4,000 are still in government custody, some in large, impersonal shelters."
"Early experiences are literally built into our brains and bodies," says Dr. Jack Shonkoff at Harvard's Center on the Developing Child. He warned Congress earlier this year that detaining kids away from their parents or primary caregivers rewires their brains. The American Academy of Pediatrics said in the September issue of journal Pediatrics that migrant children who are detained "face almost universal traumatic histories." The longer the detention and the younger the detainees, the greater chance of serious trauma.
When President Trump took office, the Department of Health and Human Services was caring for about 2,700 children, most of whom were reunited with parents or relatives in about a month, AP reports. In June, HHS had more than 13,000 children in custody and they stayed in detention for about two months. On Nov. 5, a federal judge ordered the government to immediately provide mental health treatment and screening to detained migrant families, ruling that there is sufficient evidence government policy "caused severe mental trauma to parents and their children" and U.S. government officials were "aware of the risks associated with family separation when they implemented it." Peter Weber
Intervening in the sexual abuse of children is a punishable offense for U.S. soldiers and Marines working in Afghanistan, even when the abusers are American allies, The New York Times reports. The practice of sexual abuse, called bacha bazi, or "boy play," has upset many U.S. soldiers based in Afghanistan, though they are told "to look the other way because it's their culture" in response to concerns and complaints.
The American policy of nonintervention is intended to maintain good relations with the Afghan police and militia units the United States has trained to fight the Taliban. It also reflects a reluctance to impose cultural values in a country where pederasty is rife, particularly among powerful men, for whom being surrounded by young teenagers can be a mark of social status.
Some soldiers believed that the policy made sense, even if they were personally distressed at the sexual predation they witnessed or heard about.
"The bigger picture was fighting the Taliban," a former Marine lance corporal reflected. "It wasn't to stop molestation." [The New York Times]
"The reason we were here is because we heard the terrible things the Taliban were doing to people, how they were taking away human rights," a former Special Forces captain, Dan Quinn, told the Times. "But we were putting people into power who would do things that were worse than the Taliban did — that was something village elders voiced to me."
Captain Quinn assaulted a U.S.-backed commander who kept a boy chained to his bed as a sex slave. As a result, Quinn was relieved of his command and pulled from Afghanistan. He has since left the military. Sgt. First Class Charles Martland, who assisted Captain Quinn in beating up the alleged child abuser, is now resisting being kicked out of the army. "The Army contends that Martland and others should have looked the other way," California Representative Duncan Hunter, who is working to save Sgt. Martland's career, told the Times.