While most of our attention is focused on COVID-19’s impact on our own families, we also have an opportunity to remember those less fortunate in overcrowded facilities. Thousands of unaccompanied children are in the care and custody of the Office for Refugee Resettlement (ORR) (Re: “Federal judge orders ORR and ICE to release minors with ‘greater speed,’” News, April 30, 2020).
We must ask ourselves, why does the U.S. government allow children to remain in crowded ORR facilities, especially during a pandemic? Can you imagine any U.S. American child sitting in a foreign detention center until they can be resettled during this health crisis?
We would not stand for this if it happened to our own children. We are responsible for their safety and wellbeing. We would not be deterred to take action.
In our own country, many government leaders have taken measures to ensure the safety of our children. Steps are in place to keep them safe.
Yet, facilities continue to hold unaccompanied minors. At least 59 children held in ORR detention facilities have tested positive for COVID-19 out of approximately 2,100 unaccompanied minors throughout the country.
We, as the voice for all children, must speak to protect children everywhere. We should not be deterred.
One facility in Colorado united unaccompanied children to parents, family members or sponsors. All facilities should follow suit immediately.
Voice this issue among your family and circle. Help spread awareness. All children from the ORR detention centers should be released so they may be protected and kept safe from further spread of coronavirus amongst themselves, employees and employee’s families. All people deserve humane treatment.
Join me and Save the Children Action Network in contacting your policymakers and the Trump administration, urging ORR to release children and pregnant women, from detention settings and state-run facilities where there is risk of a coronavirus outbreak.
Children, and all people, deserve humane protections from COVID-19.
Deborah Young/Longmont, and executive director of Empowering Communities Globally