Tucson, AZ – Despite what side of the wall you stand on immigration and border-crossers, one undeniable truth is that these people are still human beings. Whether you are for or against what makes the American tapestry what it is, human dignity is an unalienable right and not a privilege. It takes a special kind of person to deny that right to children. That special kind of person is usually the type of person that seeks positions of authority and abuses it when no one is watching. They don’t always get caught. When they do get caught their punishment is usually little more than a slap on the wrist.
As the topic of border security persists in the news cycle, stories of neglect, death, and more begin to invade the American conscious. Recently two kids have died while in custody. Before that there were images of children in cages and descriptions of horrendous living conditions. Now videos have emerged of detention officials being physically abusive to migrant children in their custody. These acts under any other conditions would have led to the arrest of these adults but alas, Americans don’t extend basic human rights to foreigners… especially illegal border-crossers.
The Arizona Republic obtained videos showing detention officials slapping, pushing, and dragging migrant children around at a defunct “shelter” provided by Southwest Key Programs.
In one video, a male staffer at the Hacienda Del Sol shelter in Youngtown, Arizona, is seen pulling and dragging a young boy into a room before slapping him and pushing him against a wall. The child then appears to strike back at the employee who retreats from the boy and leaves the room.
A second surveillance clip shows a female employee at the shelter dragging a child into a room. Another staff member is seen in the same video dragging and pulling another child across the floor.
Southwest Key reportedly notified authorities of the incidents shown on the videos. Eventually the federal government stepped in and shut down the facility in October 2018. Southwest Key said the Office of Refugee Resettlement had decided to suspend operations at Hacienda Del Sol because of an unspecified incident. The scenes in the video have not been confirmed as being directly related to why the facility was closed. The Republic did say in October “the facility was shuttered because staffers there had been found to have physically abused children.”
“(T)he investigation determined that while physical force and restraint techniques were used against these minor children, these actions did not rise to the level of criminal charges,” Sgt. Joaquin Enriquez said in a statement.
“We wholeheartedly welcomed the [decision] and are working to thoroughly retrain our staff,” a spokesman for the Texas-based shelter operator said.
A slap on the wrist for the operation.
Southwest Key is the largest “shelter” provider in the United States and is fraught with improprieties. The shelter operator has come under scrutiny in recent months for an array of issues, including accusations of child sexual abuse, the possible misuse of federal money and the failure to conduct adequate background checks on some employees.
A staffer at a Southwest Key shelter in Phoenix, Arizona, was arrested in July for allegedly molesting a 14-year-old girl at the facility. About a month later, an employee at a shelter in Mesa, Arizona, who is HIV-positive, was convicted of sexually abusing several boys.
These shelters have turned into hunting grounds for sexual predators and tyrants preying on the vulnerable border-crossers seeking a better opportunities in the “land of the free, and home of the brave.”
This is not a debate on immigration. This is not a forum for or against immigration. It is merely a reflection of the American psyche. Do we continue to dehumanize these human beings and ignore their plight or do we hash out a resolution that is firm yet compassionate? Do human rights apply for foreigners or not?