“I worked in a trailer that ICE had set aside for conversations between the women and the attorneys. While we talked, their children, most of whom seemed to be between three and eight years old, played with a few toys on the floor. It was hard for me to get my head around the idea of a jail full of toddlers, but there they were.”
For decades, advocates for refugee children and families have fought to end the U.S. government’s practice of jailing families for months or even years until courts could decide on their claims for asylum. Baby Jails is the history of that legal and political struggle narrated engagingly by Philip G. Schrag, a legal activist, who takes readers on the thirty-year battle to end the detention of migrant children. Using the Reno v. Flores case of 1985 as a backdrop, Schrag shares the story of 15-year-old unaccompanied Jenny Lisette Flores, who languished in a makeshift jail of a motel surrounded entirely of barbed wire, chronicling legal twists and turns on the case over the years. Yet no one could have predicted how Flores would become a significant target for the Trump administration. Honing in on developments over the last two years, Schrag provides recommendations to reform a system that has caused anguish and trauma for parents and children alike. Provocative and timely, Baby Jails exposes the continuing struggle between the government and immigrant advocates over the duration and conditions of confinement of children who are simply seeking safety in the United States.