Thousands of Detained Immigrant Children Allege Sexual Abuse While in Custody
It’s become a well-documented fact that under President Trump’s administration, the number of immigrants being held in detention centers have grown, and that includes children. In the time since the family separation policy was enacted, thousands of minors have been taken from their families — at least 3,000 of which were eventually left unaccounted for.
Details of these programs have slowly trickled out to the public over the past two years. This month, however, one of the most horrifying realities has come out: Thousands of immigrant children in government custody have reported being victims of sexual assault.
This information came to light thanks to requests to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice made by Florida Rep. Ted Deutch. After obtaining their reports, Rep. Deutch described says the way these children are being treated is “despicable” and “disgusting,” adding that he intends to make officials answer for what appears to be an incredible amount of sexual abuse committed against detained immigrant minors.
According to the report from Health and Human Services, between October 2014 and July 2018, 4,556 complaints of sexual assault or impropriety were documented. The Department of Justice reports 1,303 such complaints during this period, with the greatest number of complaints being made in Q2 2018.
What’s worth bearing in mind is that these figures pertain specifically to children in the custody of HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement, leaving untold numbers of children being held by other agencies, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and their contractor facilities unaccounted for here.
Before these particular reports became public, it was not a secret that immigrants detained by ICE were being abused — in fact, in one instance, a mother was sexually abused in the presence of her young child. This has lead to an ongoing legal dispute, with ICE lawyers claiming that the encounter was legally consensual and is not a violation of federal laws — laws which prohibit any form of sexual contact between inmates and staff, consensual or otherwise.
The reports include details of the various complaints, with an overwhelming number of them being resolved in one of three particular ways: The complaint is dismissed, the staff member is reassigned away from the child in question or the staff member is fired. In the rare instance when an investigation is conducted, little is done, as it does not appear that any criminal or civil action has been taken against alleged perpetrators of abuse. This casts great doubt on whether HHS and the DOJ are treating this issue with the gravity it demands.
Regardless of one’s views on undocumented immigration and how it should be handled, it is completely unacceptable to treat vulnerable children of any origin or legal status in such a heinous manner.
This article was originally published on Care2.com on March 11, 2019.