Friday, September 20, 2019

Children in detention centers allege sex assault in retaliation for protesting

The poor treatment of migrant children at the hands of U.S. border agents in recent months extends to include allegations of sexual assault and retaliation for protests, according to dozens of accounts by children held in Arizona.

A 16-year-old Guatemalan boy held in Yuma, Arizona, said he and others in his cell complained about the taste of the water and food they were given. The Customs and Border Protection agents took the mats out of their cell in retaliation, forcing them to sleep on hard concrete.

A 15-year-old girl from Honduras described a large, bearded officer putting his hands inside her bra, pulling down her underwear and groping her as part of what was meant to be a routine pat down in front of other immigrants and officers. The girl said “she felt embarrassed as the officer was speaking in English to other officers and laughing” during the entire process, according to a report of her account.

Earlier reports from investigators for the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General from the El Paso and Rio Grande Valley sectors in Texas detailed horrific conditions in overcrowded border stations. President Trump has pushed back against reports of poor conditions for children, and Kevin McAleenan, acting secretary of DHS, which oversees CBP, has said the reports are “unsubstantiated.”

But in nearly 30 accounts obtained from “significant incident reports”, kids who spent time in the Yuma border station reported being denied a phone call, not being offered a shower, sleeping on concrete or and feeling hungry before their 9 p.m. dinnertime. Laura Belous, advocacy attorney for an organization that provides legal services to migrant children, the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, said her group was “horrified and sickened by the allegations of abuse … But unfortunately, we are not surprised.”

Other children described being scared of the officers; one child wore soiled underwear for the 10 days he was in the border station because he was afraid to ask for a clean pair. In a statement to NBC News, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md said, “These allegations are very concerning and need to be fully investigated. The president has denied any problems with these detention centers — despite multiple confirmed reports to the contrary — but it is the Trump administration’s own policies that have contributed to this humanitarian crisis and this lack of accountability.”

NBC NEWS