The Smithsonian Could Acquire The Controversial Drawings By Detained Migrant Children

The Smithsonian Could Acquire The Controversial Drawings By Detained Migrant Children

By: Oliver G. Alvar -

Children released from CBP custody shared their experience through art, and what they told the world is heartbreaking. Now, the Smithsonian is looking into acquiring the controversial drawings.

More and more reports are revealing what is going on within the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities where asylum seekers are being detained. And the more the world knows about the conditions migrants are facing at the hands of U.S. authorities, the more outrage there is. For good reason.

Just days after several Democratic representatives, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Julián Castro, toured these facilities in Texas to discover "horrifying" conditions, a group of children that had been recently released from CBP custody shared their traumatizing experience through several disturbing drawings.

The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

Now, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is looking into the possibility of acquiring these drawings for its permanent collection. The museum recently approached the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which originally shared the artworks, as part of their ongoing exploratory process—which so far hasn't involved any exchanges or acquisitions. 

drawings by migrant children experience us custody@AmerAcadPedsTo explain their interest, a Smithsonian representative argued that “The museum has a long commitment to telling the complex and complicated history of the United States and to documenting that history as it unfolds, such as it did following 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, and as it does with political campaigns”

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Dehumanizing conditions

The drawings show the tragic reality about the conditions immigrants unfairly face on a daily basis. According to the AAP, "The Department of Homeland Security facilities do not meet the basic standards for the care of children in residential settings." The Department of Homeland Security itself has said as much, as its inspector general released a shocking new report where he claims that conditions at Border Patrol facilities are so terrible that one of the managers called them a "ticking time bomb." 

These news follow unsettling reports that Border Patrol agents are telling people to drink water out of the toilet, psychologically and physically abusing detainees, denying medication to women, etc. It was reported that some children completely lacked access to hot meals, change of clothes, or showers, and nearly a third of them were held way more than the 72 hours allowed by law (with some unfairly detained for over two weeks).

drawings by migrant children experience us custody

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The injustice of it all

The drawings were made by unaccompanied children aged 10 and 11, mostly from Guatemala. And before we go around victim-blaming by claiming it's the parents' fault, we should understand that most asylum-seekers have no choice but to relocate, facing insurmountable violence at their original home. They simply do not deserve to run away from terrible conditions only to be forced into cages—or worse.

drawings by migrant children experience us custodyVia CBS News

Dr. Collen Kraft, former president of the AAP, characterized the drawings as "incredibly heartbreaking." I think we can all agree with that, as more and more people are suffering from increasingly dehumanizing immigration policies under Trump's administration—with some denouncing CBP facilities as concentration camps. For a reasonable society, recent reports and drawings such as these would serve as a wake up call to prevent yet more atrocities against human rights. We can only hope that this is the case.

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