Parents in Detention Centers Slept With Their Legs Wrapped Around Their Kids

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Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

More than 2,000 migrant children have been forcibly separated from their parents under the Trump administration’s brutal zero-tolerance immigration policy. Now, the Washington Post has a heartbreaking report that delves into how their parents tried to protect them from being taken.

At immigrant detention facilities along the U.S.–Mexico border, many detained parents initially didn’t realize their children would be taken away from them. Some parents thought they were only briefly being separated from their kids while attending court hearings, only to return to the facility and learn that their kids were taken to federal shelters. Others believed their children were being taken away for baths, but then the kids did not come back.

But other detained parents were worried, and went to great lengths to keep their kids close. Per the Post:

At a shelter in McAllen, as word spread that children were being pulled from their parents, some mothers and ­fathers took to sleeping with their legs wrapped around their children so they couldn’t be snatched.

The Post report also details the pain that the separated kids are going through. Many of these kids are exhausted, but can’t sleep, and they’re surrounded by other (crying and screaming) children they’ve never seen before, according to the Post. They don’t know where their parents are, and in many cases, they’re actually being held in completely different states than their parents.

And now they live and wait in unfamiliar places: big American suburban houses where no one speaks their language; a locked shelter on a dusty road where they spend little time outside; a converted Walmart where each morning they are required to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, in English, to the country that holds them apart from their parents.

At one facility housing children, kids are given a drawstring “arrival bag” with a change of clothes and other necessities once they got there. The youngest kids received teddy bears. “It really wears on these kids, the level of institutionalization,” a former employee of Southwest Key’s Estrella del Norte shelter in Tucson told the Post.

Parents in Detention Centers Slept With Legs Around Children