Saturday, May 18, 2024

Audio from migrant detention facilities reveals sexual assault by staff

New audio from inside a U.S. government shelter for unaccompanied migrant children in Fort Bliss, Texas, reveals allegations of sexual misconduct by staff toward minors, acknowledgement the children were running low on clean clothes and shoes as well as a reluctance by officials to make public the scope of the facility’s COVID-19 outbreak.

In the audio, a federal contractor running a training session with staffers inside Fort Bliss says “We have already caught staff with minors inappropriately. Is that OK with you guys?”

The crowd shouts back, “No”

“I hope not” she responds

“If you catch them, especially if it’s a staff member, you separate that minor from that person immediately” the contractor says without mentioning to report the incident to supervisors.

Later in the training session, the contractor says children have complained about staff bouncing up and down on their beds to wake them up.  She states, “I know there have been a lot of complaints from minors about staff members waking them up in the morning. We’ve got some staff members that are picking up and shaking the bed to wake up the minor. Or they’re bouncing them on the bed. They think they’re being playful, but that constitutes child abuse. I want you guys to know that.”

She also acknowledges the shortage of clean clothes and shoes for the children and claims that management knows and they’re working on getting the supplies. She confirmed recent allegations from whistleblowers who came forward to talk about the difficulty they had in getting clothes for children at the shelter.

In a meeting with Fort Bliss employees, a doctor for the U.S. Public Health Service refused to give out information on COVID-19 rates. The doctor said, “I can’t give you daily numbers and breakouts and graphs and things like that. Assume everyone has Covid, act appropriately. … Sorry, it’s not a great answer.” He also acknowledged there had been reports of sexual activity at the shelter, though he didn’t specify if the staff had been involved with the children.

In a statement, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra said, “the agency takes every allegation of wrongdoing seriously. Every emergency intake site we have launched, we started from scratch. We constantly work to improve the conditions and services required to care for children in these challenging shelter settings.”