Children and teenagers who illegally enter the United States in order to flee the war and poverty in their homelands suffer even more brutality at the hands of border patrol agents who not only physically abuse them but even sexually assault these unaccompanied minors, according to a new report by the American Civil Liberties Union and the International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School.
The report, titled “Neglect and Abuse of Unaccompanied Immigrant Children by U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” reviewed complaints filed by the immigrant children against the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials, detailing disturbing allegations of cruelty and inhumane behavior.
“Since 2015, the ACLU has obtained over 30,000 pages of records related to abuse of children in CBP custody,” it read. “These records document a pattern of intimidation, harassment, physical abuse, refusal of medical services, and improper deportation between 2009 and 2014. These records also reveal the absence of meaningful internal or external agency oversight and accountability.”
Most of these children arrive in the U.S. from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The last three countries are called the “Northern Triangle” and considered one of the most violent and unstable regions in the world.
The documents, which were released through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, paint a rather horrifying picture of what goes on inside immigration detention centers.
“These documents provide a glimpse into a federal immigration enforcement system marked by brutality and lawlessness,” said ACLU Border Litigation Project Staff Attorney Mitra Ebadolahi. “All human beings deserve to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of their immigration status — and children, in particular, deserve special protection.”
The report cited an unaccompanied minor who said a border patrol truck deliberately run her over in 2011, breaking her right leg. According to her medical records, the unidentified victim also suffered a crush injury and several contusions.
In another even more disgusting incident in 2014, a 16-year-old girl was allegedly sexually assaulted by the CBP officers.
"When they searched her, they forcefully spread her legs and touched her private parts so hard that she screamed," the report alleged.
Meanwhile, the border patrol agency has refuted the accusations.
“The 'report' equates allegations with fact, flatly ignores a number of improvements made by CBP as well as oversight conducted by outside, independent agencies,” said CBP spokesperson Dan Hetlage. “CBP takes seriously all allegations of misconduct, but without new specifics is unable to check to commence reasonable steps to examine these assertions and address the accusations levied.”
Hetlage also claimed Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General found the claims were “unsubstantiated.” However, ACLU staff attorney and border litigation project fellow Zoë McKinney told BuzzFeed News “none of the allegations were ever meaningfully investigated.”
“This is an agency that just does surface level or perfunctory investigations on all of these complaints,” she explained. “Although these complaints are from 2009 to 2014 this very much still fits in the broader picture of immigrants and migrant children having their rights violated. Many of the leaders of the organization at the time are still in positions of power under the current administration...this abuse will certainly continue.”
These kids come to the U.S. in search of better lives, but instead of finding safety, they are forced to face even more violence and abuse. It’s an alarming situation that needs utmost attention, yet given Trump administration’s agenda to deport as many undocumented immigrants as possible, a solution to this ongoing crisis doesn’t seem imminent.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Reuters/Jose Luis Gonzalez