What is missing from the photos the Trump administration has released of children being housed at immigration detention centers at the U.S./Mexico border are images of little girls.
The government issued a few photos this week from the detention centers where some of the 10- to 17-year-old boys who have been separated from their parents in a growing immigration crisis are processed and held.
They show boys lined up, gripping trays carrying their food or behind chain-link walls resting on mats, covered by shining silver HeatSheets.
But the lack of girls in government-released images has sparked a storm of tweets using the hashtag #WhereAreTheGirls, as throngs of concerned people wonder what has happened not only to the girls, but also to toddlers who have been detained, and why the news media doesn’t have access to the places where they are being held.
NBC News reporter Kristen Welker asked during a press briefing Monday with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen: “Why is the government only releasing images of boys being held? Where are the girls? Where are the young toddlers?”
“I don’t know,” Nielsen said, and then referred Welker to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Department of Health and Human Services said it currently has 3,280 females in care and 8,506 males.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., said Tuesday afternoon that she and the American people want answers. She said she’s still waiting to get clearance to be allowed to visit the detention centers and hopes to be able to join a group of congresswomen later this month to see what’s happening inside.
“Secretary Nielsen was asked where are the girls, where are the toddlers, and she wouldn’t answer the reporters,” said Dingell. “And I’m so upset about all of this.
“We don’t see the photos and the videos. They don’t show the girls. We’ve seen the little ones who are being torn away from the parents, but the reporters are not given tours of the facilities. … They are not being transparent about how people are being treated. It’s gut-wrenching and it’s inhumane.
“We’re going to keep groups going to hold them accountable to keep the pressure on.”
Journalists have not been allowed to interview or photograph the children who were separated from their parents as they crossed the border during a zero-tolerance crackdown on immigration that took effect April 6. Many of the families came to the border seeking asylum from violence in their home countries — predominantly El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala — and entered the U.S. illegally.
Reporters who have been inside the detention centers have said they saw no girls or toddlers or babies in the centers, leading to questions on social media using the #WhereAreTheGirls hashtag.
MSNBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff tweeted Tuesday that he asked the Health and Human Services department to see photos of girls and toddlers, but instead was offered pictures from 2016.
The New York Times reported that the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement is now housing at least 11,000 children in 100 shelters in 17 states. Of them, about 2,000 have been separated from their parents since April, when the government crackdown took effect.