The issue of the southern border of the United States is complex, there is no denying. For decades the border, and the people who cross it, have been a contentious piece of American politics, made all the more manifest by their migrant being. We can debate the national debt all day long, but come quitting time, it's not going to have very real consequences in our day-to-day lives in the same fashion as living, breathing illegal immigrants.
Migrants who come to the United States from Mexico, Latin America, and South America are very real, very present people. They don't exist as some numbers on a ticking clock, but heartbeats and breaths that occupy a multitude of spaces in the current American schema.
Which is to say, when news surfaced recently of sexual abuse of migrant children in the custody of the US Border Patrol, there was a visceral reaction, precisely because those breaths had been altered in unspeakable ways.
Recent documents obtained by Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) reveal that there were 4,556 sexual abuse complaints reported to the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) between October 2014 and July 2018. Additionally, 1,303 complaints were received by the Justice Department, though as CBS reports, it's unclear if these reports overlap with those given to ORR.
This is a travesty in every sense of the word. One may even deign a to issue the phrase, "holocaust of innocence." Children, who in near every facet of the law and life have little to no autonomy of their own, were placed in the protective custody of the United States government.
The United States government failed those children.
And yet, even despite that gross negligence, there is something additionally nefarious here: partisan use of the tragedy for political gain.
Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA) leveled accusations of "a systematic cover-up" by the Trump administration, saying that though it documented the instances of sexual abuse, it failed to elevate them to the highest levels.
Of course, if you've been paying attention, you'll immediately spot what's wrong with that claim, as I did almost immediately upon reading the initial article.
This can't wholly be an issue of Trump malfeasance, because half of these cases (at least) happened under the Obama administration.
That's right. In the first instance in which these cases were recorded, October 2014, Donald Trump was not on anyone's political radar. He was still happily ho-humming along as a middling reality TV star. He was a private citizen. He had no immediate stake in policies enacted by the United States government in relation to the US-Mexico border.
But Barack Obama sure did.
So, the question that Correa must answer is that why didn't Obama's administration do anything? How come the man with whom Correa shares a political party was not included in his criticisms? In his cries for justice?
Now, that's not to say that Lou Correa cares naught for the children victimized at the border, or that Barack Obama necessarily had a malevolent disposition or motivation when he would have been responsible for these claims in 2014, 2015, and 2016.
But, I cannot almost wholly guarantee you neither did Donald Trump! His candidacy didn't even begin until eight months after the first of these cases was even reported!
Perhaps there have been disparities stemming from when Donald Trump took office in January 2017, but how can he be responsible for what happened three years prior?
No, I don't think Lou Correa does not care, but I don't think he's caring very effectively by parading around and launching political grenades with notions like "cover-up" and "systematic repression." He knows that insulting and demonizing Donald Trump is what will make him popular, and who doesn't crave popularity?
What I would best theorize happened is far more institutional than political. Children with little to no formal representation got caught in the shuffle. Lost in the mix. It's a story that happens all too often. Data collected by the Office of Children and Families (a division of the same Health and Human Services Department that is entangled in these latest accusations) shows that nationwide, in 2017, the most recent year in which data are available, some 673,830 children in the foster care system experienced some kind of abuse.
Now, that's not to excuse anyone from any wrongdoing, but it is to put things in perspective. If over half a million children in the American foster care system are abused every year, is it hardly surprising that there was administrative oversight on cases of around 4,000 non-American children being abused?
While the abuse of these migrant children is a travesty of the highest order that deserves to be dealt with fairly, justly, and equitably, it sickens me that the issue need be politicized it in the way that Correa has done so, and others may yet do. While Trump's policies have certainly complicated the issue of the border and US-Mexico relations, he is not responsible for sexual abuse that happened at the border in 2014.
Those children deserve better, and that can start by putting aside the political crusade.