Friday, September 24, 2021

Ex-employee denounces conditions for young migrants in US custody

Tucson, Arizona, Jun 18 (EFE).- The inconsolable tears of children separated from their parents at the border were what moved Antar Davidson to quit his job last week at Tucson’s Estrella del Norte shelter, a facility he described as very much like a prison.

Davidson can’t forget the three Brazilian siblings recently separated from their parents at the border and who, upon arriving at the shelter, were told they couldn’t even hug each other to get through this terrible moment in their lives.

“The kids had just gone through the trauma of being ripped away from their parents. They couldn’t stop crying and I was ordered to tell them they had to sleep apart from one another, and that, because of the shelter’s policy, they were not allowed to touch each other,” Davidson, also of Brazilian descent, told EFE.

He remembered very well when the eldest of the siblings, a 16-year-old boy, asked how he could look strong in front of his sisters, ages 10 and 6, who cried disconsolately because they “didn’t know where their parents were.”

“That was when I decided to quit and, in some way, speak up so people would know what’s going on,” he said.
Children taken away from their parents at the border are delivered to the US Department of Health and Human Services, which has contracts with 100 shelters in 17 states that currently hold more than 11,000 children.

One of them is Estrella del Norte, managed by Texas-based non-profit Southwest Key, which as of last week had taken in 280 kids, 70 of them under age 13 and some as young as 4.

Davidson condemns the “zero tolerance” policy announced in May by the administration of US President Donald Trump, which up to now has meant the separation of some 2,000 migrant children from their parents.

He also contends that the shelter, opened in 2014 amid a flood of unaccompanied minors arriving at the southern border from Central America, lacks the necessary personnel to care for the youngsters.

“What’s most worrying is that these kids are not getting the care and psychological therapy they need,” he said, adding that “a lot of the employees previously worked in restaurants and the like – they just don’t have the experience for this kind of work.”

In a statement sent to EFE, Southwest Key said that its Tucson shelter complies with all the established requirements, including the ratio of employees to children.