On May 22, the ACLU released a report documenting horrendous abuse and neglect of unaccompanied immigrant children detained by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The ACLU produced the report together with the International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School. Examples of abuses reported by the ACLU include allegations that CBP officials:
- Punched a child’s head three times
- Kicked a child in the ribs
- Used a stun gun on a boy, causing him to fall to the ground, shaking, with his eyes rolling back in his head
- Ran over a 17-year-old with a patrol vehicle and then punched him several times
- Verbally abused detained children, calling them dogs and “other ugly things”
- Denied detained children permission to stand or move freely for days and threatened children who stood up with transfer to solitary confinement in a small, freezing room
- Denied a pregnant minor medical attention when she reported pain, which preceded a stillbirth
- Subjected a 16-year-old girl to a search in which they “forcefully spread her legs and touched her private parts so hard that she screamed”
- Left a 4-pound premature baby and her minor mother in an overcrowded and dirty cell full of sick people, against medical advice
- Threw out a child’s birth certificate and threatened him with sexual abuse by an adult male detainee.
These abuses are not new: the report is based on more than 30,000 pages of documents from 2009-2014. That means the abuse was going on under the Obama administration.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is a sub-agency of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). CBP takes custody of migrant children when they are apprehended at or near the border, and holds them until they are either deported or transferred into the custody of Office of Refugee Resettlement for longer-term detention or placement. The law says CBP can only hold children for 72 hours, but the ACLU report says that time limit is sometimes ignored, and that CBP officers try to deport children “without due process and via coercion.”
“In direct violation of federal law, DHS does not appear to have reported alleged child abuse out to the FBI. Moreover, records of the investigations conducted by DHS oversight agencies like CRCL and OIG indicate systemic failures to meaningfully investigate the allegations, including a lack of independent fact finding, ineffective reporting systems, and routine closure of investigations due to agency delays and unreliable record keeping. The records provide no indication that DHS has taken any remedial or disciplinary measures to hold any individual accountable for these abuses.”
The report is based on documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Immigration authorities resist and delay releasing information that, under law, is public. That is why the report does not include more recent information. There is no reason to believe that CBP is behaving any better under Trump.
If you think this is wrong, that this is not who we should be as a country, call your Congress member and Senators and tell them.