Editor’s Note: Alyssa Milano is an actor, activist and producer currently seen in the Netflix dark comedy, “Insatiable.” Milano is also the founder of #NoRA, a collective of over 50 artists and activists, focused on hacking the gun violence culture through art and counteracting the influence of the gun lobby in the American political system. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
If professor Christine Blasey Ford is to be believed, and I believe she is, Brett Kavanaugh is a sexual predator.
If any number of women are to be believed, and I believe they are, Donald Trump is a sexual predator.
Both Kavanaugh and Trump have denied allegations against them. I wish so deeply that the alleged sexual violence – and overall cruelty toward those who are vulnerable – committed by those who wear the mantle of our nation’s government began and ended with these two men. It does not. It exists at every level of our national institutions, and even at agencies working on behalf of our government who are tasked with the sacred duty of caring for children.
Until we root out the institutionalization of sexual violence and child abuse in our government, too many will continue to be victims – some in our name, under the false premise of protecting our borders.
Hidden behind the glare of the cameras pointed at Judge Kavanaugh is the ongoing plight of immigrant children in the United States. A New York Times article recently told the tale of hundreds of immigrant children from around the country being moved to a government-run tent city in Texas under the cover of darkness. There are no schools. There is limited access to legal services, and the children are frequently forced to represent themselves in immigration court.
Nearly 70 days after a court order demanding that immigrant children be reunited with the families from whom they were torn, hundreds still languish in shelters run by Southwest Key. Hundreds more who arrived without parents are also in their charge.
As one of the largest organizations charged with the care of migrant children separated from their families by the Trump regime’s cruel and unnecessary family separation policy, Southwest Key has received over $1.5 billion in taxpayer dollars in the last decade, including nearly $500 million this year alone to house more than 1,500 children in several states. Their actions are undertaken on our behalf, using our money.
Over and over again, Southwest Key and other organizations tasked with the same cruel service have been accused of crimes against children – sexual violence, abuse and neglect.
In Arizona, Levian Pacheco, a former Southwest Key employee has been convicted of sexually abusing multiple children in his care. He had been working for months without a complete background check, a violation of basic safety measures Southwest Key is required to perform, and perform competently. Southwest Key spokesman Jeff Eller said in a statement that trial testimony showed the organization acted immediately after they learned of the assaults and suspended Pacheco. Another Southwest Key employee in Arizona has been charged with sexually assaulting a teenage girl detained in his care in Arizona.
I wish I could say this was a new problem, one that is not deeply rooted in our immigration enforcement agencies. It is not. A report released in May by the American Civil Liberties Union detailed allegations of unspeakable acts of sexual violence, neglect, and physical abuse of immigrant children in the care of Southwest Key and other agencies stretching back nearly a decade. Based on over 30,000 pages of documents dated between 2009 and 2014, the report included allegations that a 16-year-old immigrant girl’s legs were spread apart during a search and her genitals were touched so forcefully it made her scream. Another immigrant child’s birth certificate was allegedly thrown out, and the child was allegedly threatened with sexual abuse by an adult male detainee.
In 2017, Judge Brett Kavanaugh – who as a Supreme Court justice would be making decisions about the bodily rights and autonomy of all Americans – dissented from an appeals court ruling clearing the way for a detained undocumented teenager to obtain an abortion over the objections of the Trump administration. Kavanaugh, denouncing the ruling in the case brought by the ACLU on the teen’s behalf, wrote that the majority of his colleagues based their decision “on a constitutional principle as novel as it is wrong: a new right for unlawful immigrant minors in US government detention to obtain immediate abortion on demand.”
The state of Arizona has moved to revoke operation licenses from all Southwest Key migrant-children facilities, far too late for many of the victims of Southwest Key employees.
The predatory sexual behavior alleged against – and bigotry displayed by – the President makes it sickeningly easy to understand how this behavior remains so pervasive in our government. He sees women and nonwhite immigrants as less than human. He sees these people as nothing more than objects on which he can act out his worst impulses, and now those impulses have the full weight and power of the United States government behind them.
In our name.
Professor Ford was a young woman when she was allegedly attacked by Brett Kavanaugh. Like the young people being attacked in our nation’s child detention industry. I think of watching her testimony last week, the way her voice trembled when she recounted the terrifying details of her assault, the years of difficulties this assault created for her, the unmistakable ring of truth in every word she said, and I think of these children. I think of the trauma they are already experiencing from their arrest and detention in a new country, that many of them suffer because our government tore them from their parents, that so many left behind in the home countries to which we want to return them – and I am even more sickened by the sexual trauma inflicted on so many of these children.
In our name.
Can we doubt that, if we confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, this further institutionalization of sexual violence will not rear its ugly head in myriad unseen ways throughout our nation? Like it has in the facilities where we forcibly detain children? In my name? In your name?
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We cannot confirm Brett Kavanaugh. We cannot allow another generation of women and children to grow up knowing their government and those acting in its name see us as less than human.
We cannot let Kavanaugh and Trump be the lasting face of who we are as a nation.