Another day, another vendetta: Trump-haters use prison ‘baby bus’ photo to attack president
ABC Houston journalist Antonio Arellano tweeted a photo on Sunday of a prison transport bus with a difference: every seat was made for babies or toddlers.
“ICE's largest family detention center, Karnes County Residential Center in Texas, run by contractor GEO Group, has a prison bus just for babies,” he said. Arellano later deleted the tweet, a screenshot of which is shown below.
Immediately, Democrats, anti-Trumpers, celebrities and concerned mothers retweeted the picture in horror. “Who are these people...are they the ‘animals’ the Prez talks about?” tweeted Texas senator Sylvia Garcia (D).
Unconscionable and inhumane. What is happening to our American values? Who are these people- GEOGroup? Are they the ‘animals’ the Prez talks about? https://t.co/tPdN6ksUgC— Sylvia R. Garcia (@SenatorSylvia) May 28, 2018
This is what we've come to under Donald Trump. Men and women of conscience, raise your voices. THIS IS WRONG. https://t.co/g651l75CmL— Stephen King (@StephenKing) May 28, 2018
This is what fascism looks like. https://t.co/quNas7AolN— Imraan Siddiqi (@imraansiddiqi) May 28, 2018
America is now funding a private prison business which makes money by imprisoning babies after separating them from their parents. You know who else did something like this?BOKO HARAM!!!This is evil and condemnable without exception!!!#AreWeGreatYet? https://t.co/8bCBZwyE4u— The Muslim Marine🕊 (@MuslimMarine) May 28, 2018
“America is now funding a private prison business which makes money by imprisoning babies after separating them from their parents,” read a comment. Except it isn’t. A quick look at the link tweeted by Arellano reveals that the picture was not taken during the Trump administration, but in April 2016, when Barack Obama called the shots on America’s immigration policy.
In addition, the bus was not being used to rip babies and children away from their mothers and lock them in an ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) dungeon, but to take them on field trips and to educational programs at local schools.
Operated by contractor GEO, the bus is one of several that serves children detained at the Karnes County Residential Center in San Antonio, Texas. Underage illegal immigrants are detained there with their mothers until their illegal entry cases are heard or their asylum claims processed.
At the time the picture was taken, there were almost 2,500 parents and children detained at Karnes County and two other facilities, another in Texas and one in Pennsylvania. The US Commission on Civil Rights authored a report in 2015 calling on President Barack Obama to release the women and children, calling the conditions at the center “torture-like.”
ICE disputed the report, as did two of the commission’s members. They claimed the detainees were well cared for. Children had access to playgrounds and playrooms, and mothers could take Zumba classes. The facility was at the time also transitioning from a long-term holding facility to a short-term processing center, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
Buses like the one shown in Arellano’s tweet were just one measure introduced to give detained children a reprieve from their surroundings.
“These field trips are part of the contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE),” reads the article tweeted by Arellano. “Field trips are provided to all children, ages four through 17 enrolled in educational programs provided by the John H. Wood Charter School, located at KCRC. Field trips consist of going to a variety of places, such as the San Antonio Zoo, seeing a movie at the local theater, going to the park, etc.”
Buses are equipped with standard cushioned seating, and drop-down screens so children can watch movies on board. Windows are not barred or caged, only toddlers are strapped in, and teachers and nurses travel with the children.
Last month, migrants interviewed by CNN also painted a far less dystopian picture of Karnes County. After fleeing persecution and the threat of death in Honduras, Gabriela Hernandez had an arduous journey to the US through Mexico, hopping on freight trains and sleeping rough with her two children.
"I don't feel like this is a jail, they are very friendly," she said. "It's like we're in a hotel.”
While asylum applicants such as Hernandez are well looked after in facilities such as Karnes County, illegal immigrants may not be so lucky. The Trump administration’s new, zero-tolerance immigration policy could see all border-jumpers federally prosecuted and children separated from their parents.
“If you don’t want your child to be separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said last month. Asylum seekers who come to an official port of entry would be exempt from this, however, and would be placed into the immigration process like Hernandez was.
The ‘baby bus’ picture is the second example in as many days of a seemingly outrageous picture hiding a complicated story.
CNN journalist Hadas Gold, NYT Magazine Editor-In-Chief Jake Silverstein, Obama’s speechwriter Jon Favreau, Women’s March co-founder Linda Sarsour and former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa were all caught out over the weekend by a seemingly new article that featured an image of two migrant children sleeping in a cage at an ICE detention facility.
“This is happening right now, and the only debate that matters is how we force our government to get these kids back to their families as fast as humanly possible," Favreau wrote in screenshots captured by Caleb Hull, senior editor of The IJR.
A lot of big names are sharing this article from 2014, but they didn’t say a word back when it actually happened under Obama.• Linda Sarsour - Women’s March co-founder• Jon Favreau - Obama’s speechwriter• Jake Silverstein - NYT Magazine editor-in-chief pic.twitter.com/R4AQEDM6BD— Caleb Hull (@CalebJHull) May 27, 2018
Favreau and the rest all quietly deleted the tweets when they learned that the picture was actually dated 2014, and couldn’t be used as ammunition against Trump. Gold and Silverstein acknowledged their mistake, with the latter blaming his family and the former pretending she knew it to be old footage.