From The Intercept:

Alberto was shackled with ankle and waist chains last December when he flew in an airplane for the first time of his life. He and a dozen other Central American refugees were being transported from a Border Patrol detention center in Texas, where Alberto had been held for 25 days, to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in York County Prison, Pennsylvania, where he would spend the next nine weeks. When he arrived, his clothes were confiscated and he was handed an orange jumpsuit, three pairs of boxers, two sheets, and a blanket. Then he was brought to a dormitory with 60 bunks and as many detainees. The room was freezing, and it stayed that way. “They would charge us $17 for a good sweater,” he told me. “And there were a lot of guys in there whose families couldn’t send them any money.”

The center’s day room included a TV permanently set to a channel in English, which few of the detainees spoke, so most of the time they played cards and other games left behind by people who had been transferred out or deported. For one hour a day, the detainees were allowed to use an indoor yard with a basketball hoop. Before they were let out to use it, one of the officers would open all of the windows to let in the freezing winter air, for no other reason, as far as Alberto could tell, than to make them miserable.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent detains an undocumented immigrant along a railroad track near the Rio Grande River at the U.S.-Mexico border on Sept. 8, 2014, near McAllen, Texas.

Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Alberto, a slender 18-year-old with high cheekbones, was a victim of violence, not a perpetrator. Three months before, Alberto had fled El Salvador to avoid near certain death and had journeyed north with the expectation that in the United States, his human rights would count for something. He sought protection. Instead, he found himself freezing in a prison, surrounded by guards who taunted him with racist insults, alongside dozens of other immigrants from places like Honduras and Eritrea, some of whom had been incarcerated there for longer than a year.

In 2014, 68,000 unaccompanied minors streamed across the border to escape horrific gang violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Over the last 18 months, however, the Central American refugee crisis has largely receded from headlines. The number of unaccompanied child refugees arriving at the border dropped by almost half between 2014, when the surge peaked, and 2015, but these sanguine figures mask the gritty persistence of an ongoing humanitarian catastrophe. Most of the decline in the influx has resulted not from a decrease in violence in Central America, but from the Obama administration’s success in subcontracting its unwanted role in the drama to Mexico. The U.S. has provided millions of dollars in equipment and training to Mexican immigration authorities to bolster enforcement of its southern border with Guatemala and Belize. Apprehensions in Mexico…

Continue Reading