Reason Roundup

U.S. Government Says Migrant Children Deserve Dirty, Traumatizing Conditions

But isn't this really Obama's fault?


For years, U.S. propagandists have spread scare stories about trafficked children being housed in warehouses and forced to sleep on mats or rickety cots, with inadequate nutrition, zero privacy, and a lack of basic sanitation. Thankfully, there's been no evidence of renegade human traffickers actually holding kids in such conditions here.

It's the U.S. government that is doing that.

After snatching kids away from their parents, federal authorities are ferreting children off to secretive warehouse locations where neon lights shine 24 hours per day. Kids are crowded into large cages where they sleep on shared mats—or sometimes concrete floors. They can be denied soap, toothbrushes, and medicine, amid outbreaks of lice and flu.

The more information that comes out about the conditions our government is keeping migrant kids in, the more unbelievably horrifying it all becomes.

Some of the babies, children, and teenagers held in these facilities have been separated from relatives seeking legal asylum here—a.k.a. those who have done absolutely nothing wrong. Others were taken from parents caught trying to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border. No matter what one thinks of the actions of these parents, surely their children don't deserve an assignation of culpability or the abusive treatment that it entails.

Some sociopaths argue that abusing children is necessary to send a message to their parents or future parents in similar situations. But we don't round up and jail the children of U.S. citizens who have broken the law. That innocent children should not suffer for the sins of their parents has long been a principle civil societies agree on. That adults should not abuse or neglect children—full stop—was once a moral principle shared by almost all.

It's bad enough that some people have let their hatred of immigrants extend to pro-child abuse arguments; worse still is that such abuse is sanctioned by U.S. authorities.

Arguing before a panel of 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judges, attorneys with the Department of Justice (DOJ) argued that it's perfectly "safe and sanitary" to deny confined migrant children toothbrushes or anything to sleep on but concrete floors.

The particular case in question started under the Obama administration—a fact that some are using to try and cast these horrors as no big deal (business as usual!) or accuse critics of simply caring about abused kids to spite Donald Trump. In truth:

  • the case is rooted in a class action lawsuit brought by migrant children detained in the Ronald Reagan era, one which resulted in standards for care that many have since sued the government for failing to live up to
  • this particular case originated in 2016 and did challenge Obama-era treatment of minors
  • after a judge ruled against the government's actions, the Trump DOJ has continued to fight back against the judge's ruling

Sadly, many of these abuses simply weren't brought to light or weren't covered as prominently by media during past administrations. But people whose brains and morals haven't been totally warped by partisan politics don't write off contemporary horrors just because The Other Side started them.

As Ken White writes at The Atlantic, the truth may be "more complex" than Evil Trump Stooges Argue for Legal Child Abuse, but the truth is "still appalling. The sheer effrontery of the government's argument may be explained, but not excused, by its long backstory." (If you want more of that backstory, read White's whole piece here.)

President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both blamed Democrats for the situation, saying it's their fault for failing to pass stricter immigration laws or approve more funding to build a big wall on the southern border. Like civilian criminal counterparts, they're essentially threatening to keep on kidnapping and traumatizing kids until Democrats meet their demands.


  • The first Democratic presidential debate is happening this Wednesday and Thursday.
  • Is Biden really as electable as people think?