Washington: Last week, the federal government told a panel of Ninth Circuit appellate judges that US border detention facilities are “safe and sanitary”, even though migrant children are denied soap and toothbrushes.
Senior US Circuit Judge A Wallace Tashima told the government attorney, "If you don't have a toothbrush, if you don't have soap, if you don't have a blanket, it's not safe and sanitary."
Judge William Fletcher called the position of Sarah Fabian, a senior attorney from the Office of Immigration Litigation, "inconceivable."
Fabian’s argument spread rapidly across the internet and many supported the notion that the United States has been treating migrant detainees less humanely than foreign pirates and the Taliban treat their captives.
During the court hearing, American journalist Michael Scott Moore who was abducted in 2012 while reporting in Somalia watched Fabian argue that minimal necessities like toiletries and sleeping conditions, were not essential to meet minimum “safe and sanitary” standards.
"That was - let's say - below my experience in Somalia," he told The Washington Post on Tuesday.
He said at least he was given toothpaste, soap, a daily shower and a foam mattress.
Recent reports describe that US border detainees are being held in cages of chain-link, sleeping on concrete and covered with blankets made of aluminium foil.
On Tuesday, the Customs and Border Protection officials said that children in custody receive "continuous access to hygiene products and adequate food" while awaiting shelter placement.
The executive editor of the New Yorker, David Rhodes, who was hostage of the Taliban for seven months said, “The Taliban gave me toothpaste and soap.”
Washington Post Global opinions writer Jason Rezaian, who was held in Iranian custody for a year and a half and has an ongoing lawsuit against the Iranian government, also responded on Twitter.
"I felt if I didn't chime in, it would be the height of hypocrisy," Rezaian said. "The government is treating them like they're statistics, 'the other' and not deserving of basic humanity,” he added.
The case heard on Tuesday stems from a motion filed under the Obama administration. In part, it argued that Customs and Border Protection was holding children in detention facilities that were not "safe and sanitary”.
The Trump administration, however, opted to bring the appeal, asking the panel of three judges to condone current custody conditions.