Decades after the U.S. stopped institutionalizing kids because large and crowded orphanages were causing lasting trauma, it is happening again. The federal government has placed most of the 14,300 migrant toddlers, children and teens in its care in detention centers and residential facilities packed with hundreds, or thousands, of children.
The mother chalked it up to sadness. She was in Guatemala and Erik was in an immigration detention center for children in the Chicago area. He and his father had hoped to get asylum in the U.S., and while Erik was held in detention, his father was deported.
For the past few months, images of distressed migrant children have populated American newsfeeds and television screens.
Before they were separated at the southwest border, Ana Carolina Fernandes’s 5-year-old son loved playing with the yellow, impish Minion characters from the “Despicable Me” movies. Now his favorite game is patting down and shackling “migrants” with plastic cuffs.