As migrant children suffer at border, Trump administration bars press access to them
Almost every story reported within the last week regarding the abhorrent conditions migrant children have been forced to endure in the custody of Customs and Border Patrol have one thing in common: They are all based on second-hand accounts.
Journalists have been forced to rely on the eyes and ears of lawyers and advocates who visited the facility in Clint, Texas, where some 300 children have been living in torture-like conditions worse than some political prisoners have endured. That’s because the Trump administration has kept reporters at bay, both away from the facilities and without access to interviews with administration officials. Photographs and recordings of the conditions and the migrant children are almost nonexistent, putting a stranglehold on the information that can reach the America public. Remember that heart-wrenching recording in 2018 of separated children sobbing for reunification with their parents? It too was recorded by a civil rights attorney and later published by ProPublica, but the Trump administration isn’t too keen on letting another PR nightmare like that reach the public again.
“If journalists had access to the detention centers at the border where children are being held in filthy conditions, those centers would not exist,” Elora Mukherjee, an immigrants rights attorney who interviewed children at the Texas facility, told The Washington Post. “If videos were released there would be massive changes” because the public outcry would be enormous.
Immigration reporters, such as The New York Times’ Caitlin Dickerson, say the press blackout has gotten worse since December, when two children died in federal custody. Another five children are known to have died in U.S. custody since then.
Getting the story out can make a major difference. The ProPublica recording touched off public fury that resulted in the Trump administration officially altering its forced separation policy, though the government continues to separate children from nonparent elders who accompany them during border crossings. And on Tuesday, reports emerged that acting CPB chief John Sanders was expected to resign soon (although Trump officials predictably said his ouster didn’t have anything to do with the fact that children under his watch had been subjected to torture).