“Shame!!! For Shame!!!

What kind of people throw little children, even babies!, into cells and wire cages with hard, cold concrete floors?

They did it last year. We thought the courts had made them stop. But they’re doing it again, holding as many as 2,000 children in these horrible concentration camps — yes, concentration camps — without beds, or blankets, or food, or fresh water, in crammed cells holding 25 or more children, the confinements reeking of piled up toilet waste and dirty diapers.

I was shocked by the coverage of the Associated Press last week. It blew the lid off Donald Trump’s dirtiest secret.

The AP reported a scene of “sickness and filth” at an overcrowded border station in Clint, Texas, where hundreds of young people who had recently crossed the border were being held.

Children as young as seven or eight, many of them wearing clothes caked with tears and the mucus of runny noses, were caring for infants they had just met. Toddlers without diapers were relieving themselves in their pants. Lawyers inspecting the detention center saw teenage mothers wearing clothes stained with breast milk.

Most of the children had not been able to shower or wash their clothes since arriving at Clint. They had no access to toothbrushes, toothpaste, or soap, according to the inspectors. Some of the children had been there nearly a month.

“There is a stench,” the AP quoted Elora Mukherjee, director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at the Columbia University Law School, one of the lawyers making the inspection. “The overwhelming majority of the children have not bathed since they crossed the border.”

The very next day, the Trump administration got the 350 children out of Clint, but another day and they sneaked in 100 more.

Even so, the concentration camp conditions aren’t only in Clint. An inspector at Border Patrol Station 1 in El Paso saw a family who had been packed into a cell for six days. The mother of the family was so ashamed of not having clean teeth – the El Paso detention center, like Clint, wasn’t providing enough toothbrushes – that “when she was talking to you she would put her hand up in front of her mouth and wouldn’t take it down.” The teenage son said he was afraid of the guards because, when he’d awakened to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, a guard had shoved him back into his cell and slammed the door on him. For two nights, the family had slept on the cold floor without blankets.

The largest Customs and Border Protection detention center for undocumented immigrants is in McAllen, Texas. A doctor who visited children there witnessed “extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food.” She said the conditions were so bad that they were “tantamount to intentionally causing the spread of disease.”

Hearing that, one might question what caused the deaths of the six immigrant children who have died. All six are said to have died of “disease.”

This is a crisis. As someone at the debates last week said, it’s not a crisis of undocumented immigrants or thousands seeking refuge, but a crisis of American values, a crisis of America’s bedrock tradition as a welcoming and humane haven. And that’s a crisis that Donald Trump has created.

The American news media reported all of these horrible conditions last week. At the same time Trump was at the Group of 20 summit in Japan, laughing about the news media with Russian president Vladimir Putin."Fake news is a great term, isn't it? You don't have this problem in Russia, but we do."

Trump may laugh, but I can’t.

I have a stake in this. In the 1980’s and 1990’s I championed a program that gave free open-heart surgery to little children from Third-World countries who were dying because they had been born with bad hearts.

They were so sick that they couldn’t even walk a dozen feet without having to sit down again until they could find the courage to go another dozen feet.

I helped form a statewide partnership between the 250 Kiwanis clubs in Pennsylvania and the rapidly growing Geisinger Health System.

The Kiwanis clubs brought the children to Geisinger and ultimately raised more than $2 million to create a special post-surgical children’s heart center at Geisinger. The program ultimately saved the lives of more than 50 children from what President Trump most hatefully calls “shi*hole countries.”

In the 1980s and 1990s lots of the 10,000 Kiwanis Club members who worked on the program were the still-active World War II veterans who saved our country. I met many, many of them and I saw and felt the generosity they showed the children and the parents who came to the U.S. with them. Many have passed on now, but I can tell you that the hate and cruelty we see and hear about today, from the White House on down, would have absolutely disgusted and enraged the 10,000 who gave of themselves to save those children. The same goes for the doctors and nurses who operated to repair the little hearts and make them whole and well.

They believed in the promise of the Statue of Liberty, and, as I have said and written many times, so do I.