A long, long time ago- May of 2018, actually- Reverend William Barber of the Poor People's Campaign criticized the detention of children by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (an arm of HHS). He maintained "to target children this way is racism. What we're seeing now, we saw in the days of slavery, where children were separated and lost from their families."
The situation is now even more dire and Walter Shaub, head of the Office of Government Ethics in the second Obama Administration:
I don't want to believe the indifference Americans are showing (lots of handwringing, limited action) is because people don't care about other people's kids. That may be true. But maybe that's how good a job the govt has done in making them mostly invisible to us. Time to act!— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) June 25, 2019
Perception of the policy as both racist and cruel reached its zenith last week when Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez referred to the detention facilities as "concentration camps."
The indifference cited by Shaub probably would be actual support if the victims were not children, unaccountable for their actions whether their parents were sensible or foolish, responsible or irresponsible.
(Pelosi on a controversial border funding bill: “It’s for the children, the children, the children. This is a very strong first step for us, for the children. It’s very exciting.”)
But maybe the limited response, the seeming acceptance of these conditions, has been in part prompted by the sense that the Trump Administration's policy is racist and cruel. The election of Donald Trump itself, buttressed by continuing support of over 40% of voters, suggests that tolerance for cruelty and bigotry is not insubstantial.
Blinded by the apparent barbarity- or at least callousness- of the conditions in the camps, the media and Democrats (the latter, depressingly) have largely missed another aspect of the policy, one which may even go to its motive.
In March, Bernie Sanders tweeted "no more private prisons and detention centers." On June 21, Elizabeth Warren's campaign issued a press release/statement/paper which pledged that the presidential candidate would "ban private prisons and detention facilities; stop contractors from charging service fees for essential services; hold contractors accountable by expanding oversight, transparency and enforcement."
In the time it has taken me to write this post, other Democrats- cognizant that ending private detention centers would throw a monkey wrench into the Administration's immigration scheme- may have come out for ending this practice.
That would be a good start. But there is no (and then, limited) chance of being implemented until and unless there is a Democratic president. And the chance of that occurring is lessened if Democrats do not understand and convey to the American people that the Trump policy is less cruel and racist than it is an appalling example of crony capitalism. It's conceivable that Warren understands, arguing
While contractors getting paid taxpayer dollars cut corners to maximize margins, the government has turned a blind eye. Food companies make millions but serve bug-infested food to save cash. An investigation into a prison transport company that allowed at least five deaths and a sexual assault to occur under their watch has gone nowhere.
Someone, some people, or some agencies are making big profits off the suffering of children. The cost of maintaining these facilities, $670 a day thirteen months ago, is probably higher now. Fat cats are profiteering, stuffing their pockets in an Administration which is characterized by grifters. From there, it's a short trip to corruption- and an even shorter trip to convincing Americans there is corruption. It's faceless businessmen getting rich off their tax dollars.
It's highly unlikely that every company involved in the Administration's detention program, whether for phone calls, bank transfers, health care, other services, or the facilities themselves was chosen on the basis of merit. If Republicans counterattack and try to engage Democrats on this issue, the movie cliche applies: go ahead, make my day.
Or at least it would be a losing issue for the GOP if it's one which Democrats, aside from Warren and perhaps Sanders, choose to invoke. If they cannot or will not make that argument, our two-party system will more closely resemble a one-party system, both ideologically and in outcome.