A 2016 photo from a blog entry for GEO Group — a private prison contractor that does business with ICE — shows a bus filled with car seats meant for babies it detains.
GEO Group’s blog post has since been deleted from its website, and a scan of screenshots the Wayback Machine archived only yield blank pages, but the photo is reportedly meant to show how small children are transported at the Karnes immigrant detention center south of San Antonio, Texas.
I was reading about ICE’s largest family detention facility—Karnes, which is run by a private contractor—and I happened upon this photo on the contractor’s blog. As my friend put it, they’ve got a prison bus for babies down there. https://t.co/ZtT8xuIJLL pic.twitter.com/tdfWRSbCAs
— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) May 27, 2018
The photo resurfaced on social media in the wake of the scandal about the Trump administration separating undocumented children from their parents at the border, losing track of approximately 20 percent of them, and inadvertently handing those children off to human traffickers positioning themselves as “sponsors” of the legally orphaned children.
The scandal itself isn’t just an indictment of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as there are glaring errors on multiple agencies and bureaucracies. While ICE is responsible for the actual detainment of immigrants, children stripped away from their parents and reclassified as “unaccompanied minors” — in accordance with the Trump administration’s harsh new policy — are put under the care of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Meanwhile, HHS has lost track of roughly 1,500 children sent away to federal shelters, out of more than 7,000 taken away from their parents since last year.
It’s important to note that because the GEO Group photo was taken in 2016, undocumented children small enough to fit into Graco car seats being detained en masse at private prisons isn’t unique to the Trump administration. ICE has been in existence since 2003, when the Department of Homeland Security was officially launched. George W. Bush’s administration rounded up and deported thousands of undocumented immigrants, and Barack Obama presided over more deportations of undocumented immigrants than any other president before him. The only thing exclusive to the current administration is the policy of children being separated from their parents at the border.
While the Obama administration ceased contracts with private prison operators in August of 2016, the Trump administration reversed that policy roughly a month after President Trump’s inauguration, prompting a rally in private prison companies’ stock. According to CNN, GEO Group donated $250,000 to Trump’s inaugural committee.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.