Children separated from their parents forced to recite pledge of allegiance: report

Children in a Texas facility are reportedly required to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, in English

By Nicole Karlis

Senior Writer

Published June 25, 2018 2:40PM (EDT)


Despite the Trump administration’s claim to execute on a plan to reunite migrant children with their parents, forcibly separated by the federal government at the U.S.-Mexico border, reports continue to surface about the unjustified and further traumatizing conduct inflicted on thousands of kids as they wait for a hopeful reunion with their parents.

Thousands of children have reportedly been separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, thanks to the Trump Administration’s "zero-tolerance" policy crackdown. The latest report sparking outrage comes from a report in the Washington Post and provides insight into the conditions at Southwest Key processing facility— known as Casa Padre—which is located in Brownsville, Texas, on the Mexican border. Stuck in a converted Walmart, children are being forced to start off their days by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, in English, according to the report:

And now they live and wait in unfamiliar places: big American suburban houses where no one speaks their language; a locked shelter on a dusty road where they spend little time outside; a converted Walmart where each morning they are required to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, in English, to the country that holds them apart from their parents.

Why must they say those words, some of the children ask at the shelter in Brownsville, on the Mexican border in Texas?

“We tell them, ‘It’s out of respect,’ ” said one employee of the facility, known as Casa Padre, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing their job.

In April, Jeff Sessions implemented a “zero tolerance” policy that set to criminally prosecute anyone who failed to cross the border at an official entry port. Sessions' policy did not require to separate families at the border, but his "zero- tolerance" rule, in essence, unofficially mandated it. Thus, the Trump Administration has subtly weaponized the idea of familial separation to install fear in undocumented immigrants. The situation has led to thousands of traumatic child-parent separations, which are further traumatizing children who have endured enough. In the situation of separation due to immigration problems, a child can develop symptoms that resemble childhood traumatic grief, a condition that occurs after the death of a parent of guardian.

“Different challenges are present for children whose caregivers are still alive than for those whose caregivers have died,” the National Child Traumatic Stress Network explains. “For example, children with traumatic separation have valid reasons to hope for a reunion with the caregiver even if that reunion could not happen for many years or at all. Hoping for reunification with the caregiver can complicate the child’s ability or desire to adjust to current everyday life and to develop healthy coping strategies.”

Irwin Redlener, president emeritus of Children’s Health Fund and a professor of health policy and management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, told Salon in May that the government’s handling of the situation is “child abuse.”

“We typically think of a child abuse and neglect as something that happens to children when parents or a guardian is over-disciplining, or engaged in acts of violence, sexual exploitation, or extreme neglect,” he said. “The federal government has created a policy which is cruel and abusive. Let’s call it what it is: ‘child abuse by government,’ that’s the only way to describe the consequences of the misguided policy.”

“All Americans should be horrified,” he added.

The Washington Post report continued to explain that mugshots are reportedly being taken of the children, which some lawyers have said depict the children in tears.

“U.S. authorities are compiling mug shots of the children in detention. Immigration lawyers who have seen the pictures say some of them show children in tears.

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By Nicole Karlis

Nicole Karlis is a senior writer at Salon, specializing in health and science. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.

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