Sunday, September 9, 2018
Last week, I told you the horrifying news that children in refugee camps in Greece and Nauru are exhibiting suicidal behavior. This week, Pro Publica reports that children held at a Chicago shelter also exhibit suicidal behavior and "hurt themselves in despair."
The article notes that kids are being held for longer periods in detention, and the longer the kids are held, the more they suffer. That latter bit - about suffering - comes as no surprise to me. When I first graduated from law school I volunteered at a shelter for abused children. Kids who stayed there for extended periods of time really changed. Initially sweet and cheerful kids became surly and uncooperative. Staff knew this and did their best to find homes for the kids as soon as possible in order to combat this tendency.
But for these immigrant kids, getting out of the shelter is nigh impossible. Nearly thirty children in Chicago have been in detention more than 200 days. One child has been detained almost 600 days.
The reasons for extended detention of minors are myriad. Some cases have been de-prioritized as officials struggle to comply with court orders regarding the reunification of other chidlren. And hurdles for sponsors abound - fingerprinting at police stations, sharing data about sponsors with ICE, the financial obligation to pay for plane tickets for the detained child and an escort to reach the sponsor.
And what about kids who become legal adults while in detention? "A child’s 18th birthday is a dreaded milestone marked by the arrival of federal immigration agents at shelter doors, sometimes just after midnight."