By Neil Doyle
NORMAL – Illinois Wesleyan University professor Kathleen O’Gorman spent this past summer at the U.S. border seeing and hearing the harsh realities of children in detention facilities.
O’Gorman served as a designated caseworker for the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, one of only two agencies allowed to enter the sites to interview children. The interviews are to help ensure compliance with the 1997 Flores Settlement, which governs how minors are treated in government facilities.
“I decided to do it as soon as I heard that we were separating children from their families and putting them in cages,” said O’Gorman. “It is a very traumatic experience, but the trauma I experience in having these interviews is nothing like the trauma I see in the children that I talk with.”
O’Gorman and several local students shared the stories of the detained children and their experience in the facilities.
“The bathrooms do not have any walls, there is no privacy and everyone can see me when I’m using the toilet and it’s humiliating…there is a 12-year-old who cries a lot, the officers make fun of those who cry…we have not been given a toothbrush or toothpaste to brush our teeth.”
“It’s important for people in this community and around the country to know what is being done in our name, this is our government doing this to these children,” O’Gorman said. “It’s very easy for our lives to go on without facing that fact, and I want it to be present so people object and we get the kids out of the cages.”
O’Gorman disclosed these were her personal findings and she is not speaking for the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law.
The discussion was part of an event Tuesday evening at Heartland Community College hosted by Not In Our Town – Bloomington-Normal, a local human rights advocacy group.
Neil Doyle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org