The national debate over the American system of migrant detainment rages on in spite of President Donald Trump signing an executive order ending the practice of separating illegal immigrant families and a surprise visit by the first lady to a child detainment facility.
However, the renewed criticism on the system has brought to light the abuses and oversights of past administrations. Lost in the debate is any acknowledgment that President Obama’s administration also used detention facilities, kept immigrant adults and children in cages, separated families, prosecuted hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants and deported millions more.
The Daily Caller published images of Obama detention facilities housing hundreds of children in chain link cages. In fact, the conditions in Obama’s illegal immigrant detainment facilities were so abhorrent that they inspired a lawsuit.
In 2015, the American Immigration Council and the American Civil Liberties Union announced a class-action lawsuit against the conditions at the detainment facilities in the Tucson, Arizona. In the lawsuit, multiple detained illegal immigrants tell the story of abhorrent conditions inside the Obama-era facilities. Children eating off the floor, sleeping under toilets, abused, crying, hungry and thirsty. Since the recent outrage over the Trump facilities also involved the treatment of minors, here are the testimonies of migrants with children held inside the Obama detainment facility:
Border Patrol agents do not provide mothers enough diapers for their infant children.
For the first 19 hours in detention, the agents did not give me any diapers for my one and half year old daughter. She dirtied her diaper and had to spend the whole night with a dirty diaper.
I did not receive enough diapers for my daughter. When we asked for more, the agents would say “wait, wait, there aren’t any.” They would only give us 2 diapers per child in the morning and sometimes another at night. This was particularly a problem when a child had diarrhea, like my daughter had.
There were approximately 50 women and their children in the cell in Arizona…There was not enough room for everyone to lie down and some kids had to sleep near the toilet. If you got up, you would not have a space to sit when you came back. At times I was able to lie on the floor, but other nights it was so crowded that I had to sleep sitting up or kneeling.
There were approximately 50 women and their children in the cell…There was one toilet in the cell. There was one sink attached to the toilet.
We were not able to sleep all night because of the cold. At one point my six month daughter did fall asleep briefly and I laid her down on the cold concrete floor. She was able to sleep a little bit but she was shivering from the cold as she slept.
There were no beds in the cell and we were not provided any blankets or other bedding. My daughter tried to sleep on the bench and I sat up so that she could at least rest her head on my lap…I was not able to sleep at all because my daughter would have fallen off the bench if I had moved.
It was also difficult to sleep because we were called out four times for interviews over the course of the night. One of those times we had to wait five and half hours… we had to stand for those five and half hours. We were already tired from walking in the desert and I was exhausted from standing and holding my daughter for so long.
There was one sink but no soap or towels. Most people had spent a lot of time in the desert and were very dirty, but it was impossible to really wash your hands or clean yourself after using the toilet, The conditions became disgusting with so many people packed into a cell in this way.
There was no waste bin in the cell so the trash was piled in the corner of the room. Toilet paper was thrown on the floor. The odor was awful because some kids had diarrhea and the mothers did not have soap to wash their hands after cleaning them or changing their diapers. The cell was cleaned once a day but we still had no way to wash our hands.
The cell was very dirty for our entire time there. There were diapers, toilet paper and other trash strewn around the bathroom area when we arrived. No one came to clear the cell and the smell was terrible. We were not able to clean because there was no trash can.
We were not given food until Saturday afternoon [after being detained the night before]. In order to eat the first night, we found some crackers that were lying on the ground and left over from the other families. We divided the crackers amongst the four children in the cell but my son kept crying and saying that he wanted food.
When we were detained were already hungry and tired. We had not eaten for an entire day and a half…We were given something to eat twice a day. The food consisted of only crackers and juice. It was very little food and my son and I were very hungry… My son cried because he was hungry.
We ate the food the first time it was given to us because we were very hungry but it gave us diarrhea and made my daughters vomit. We also noticed that the juices were already expired.
We were not given water and there was no water container…I saved my extra juice for my [three yearold] daughter because she was thirsty. We had to ask permission to go outside to the water containers, but there was no cup…so we were not able to drink the water. I was very thirsty.
No medical care:
The agents ignored me when I tried to tell them that my [20 month-old] daughter was sick. When they finally answered me, they said that they could not give her the medicine that I had for her in my belongings. They would not do anything else for her.
Border agent abuse:
One of the agents told me that they were going to take away my [six year old] son. They said that my child would stay in the U.S. and they would deport me. I said that I did not want to be separated from him. The agents responded that the U.S. didn’t want any more Guatemalans…I signed various documents that I did not understand. I asked the agent ot explain the papers but they just said “sign”…[and] that I did not have the right to know whether or not they were my deportation papers…While I was detained I was very sad and afraid that the agents would take away my son. I cried because of my situation. My son was also crying.
My [five year old U.S. citizen] daughter cried constantly, [and asked] “why are we trapped here?”
I felt terrible while I was detained, mostly because I had to watch my [fifteen and nine year-old] daughters suffer and cry due to the terrible conditions.
According to the lawsuit, the Obama administration held migrants in wretched, inhumane condition.
This lawsuit was filed in 2015 against the Obama administration and is still pending a final ruling.