Immigrant children who were torn apart from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border under the Trump administration’s malicious zero-tolerance policy are now telling stories of the abuse they allegedly suffered while they were detained.
According to the BuzzFeed News, lawyers and advocates working at a Texas detention center were horrified after hearing about the treatment children endured at the hands of authorities.
"The children I've spoken to who describe their experiences while they were separated describe absolute horror," said Cameron Carcelén, an architect from Connecticut volunteering as a translator. "The type of abuse that would make any parent sick."
The activists working at the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley were appalled to know that child detainees were allegedly kicked and hit by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at these facilities.
The minors, who were reportedly given empty hopes of being adopted by American families, were also forced to sweep floors of the shelters they were living in.
A group of 30 volunteers who offered free legal aid to detainees as a part of the Dilley Pro Bono Project said the children spoke of guards serving them frozen food – including raw meat.
"They were kicked, repeatedly kicked, over and over," said Carcelén. She also said she heard that children kept in custody were allegedly woken up throughout the night.
"A lot of the abuse was emotional," said Catherine Powers, another volunteer from Colorado.
"There's a guard who said, 'Oh, what's your mom's name? I'll go get her,' and then he'd never come back. Can you imagine?" said Powers.
"The guards would come and scream and yell and bang on the cages, 'You’re never going to see your parents again,'" said Brittany Bonner, a criminal lawyer from Miami, who often works in child welfare.
Most of the 30 volunteers were mothers, and after seeing the tragedy of migrant children unfold every day, they were compelled to use their legal expertise to help the kids out of this distressful situation.
"A lot of this resonates with moms," said Anne Gordon, a law professor from Duke University who specializes in criminal law.
"Every time my 3-year-old would cry, I'd think of a 3-year-old crying without their mother. It was affecting everything I was doing as a parent," she added.
The volunteers had not just come down to sympathize with the asylum-seeking families – they had a plan to strength their cases by preparing mothers for their initial credible fear interview, one of the first steps in the lengthy process of seeking asylum in the United States.
After hearing their stories, the volunteers gave them pointers of what part of their history they should emphasize on in order to fit under the government’s stringent regulations and gain some ground with the authorities.
For instance, Gordon noted most of the women shared stories of domestic abuse, which she thought were horrifying but wouldn’t have helped their cases whatsoever.
"Unfortunately we don't grant asylum for that. Three months ago, you were targeted for your religious group and fired at and people were shouting 'negra!' That's a 'real' reason," she said.
In the wake of such disturbing revelations, a spokesperson for CBP debunked the claims in an email statement.
“CBP disagrees with these unsubstantiated allegations. The alleged incidents do not equate to what we know to be common practice at our facilities. Without more specificity provided (date, time, location of the allegations), it is impossible for CBP to respond to such generalized comments and anonymous allegations do not equal fact. CBP treats those in our custody with dignity and respect,” the statement read.
The recent claims add to the series of alleged abuses the child detainees suffered while at custody. Just recently, a report by ProPublica revealed that shelters used to hold migrant children are a “gold mine” for predators.
It really is depressing that children who must already be traumatized by being forcefully separated from their families were subjected to such senseless emotional and physical abuse.
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