More than 4,500 complaints of sexual abuse against unaccompanied migrant minors have been received by the Department of Health and Human Services in the past four years, CNN reports. CNN and Axios say Rep.Ted Deutch (D-FL) released internal HHS documents supporting the claims, along with 1,303 complaints that were reported to the Justice Department. Axios first reported on the agency documents.
“I am deeply concerned with documents that have been turned over by HHS that record a high number of sexual assaults on unaccompanied children in the custody of the Office of Refugee and Resettlement,” Deutch said. “Together, these documents detail an environment of systemic sexual assaults by staff on unaccompanied children.”
According to Axios, “Allegations against staff members reported to the DOJ included everything from rumors of relationships with (unaccompanied minors) UACs to showing pornographic videos to minors to forcibly touching minors’ genitals.”
Despite a court order instructing the Trump administration to reunite migrant families who were forcibly separated at the US-Mexico border, The New York Times reports that the number of children still in custody has reached a record high level. The Times reports that there are currently 12,800 migrant children in federally-contracted shelters this month, five times as many since last summer, when 2,400 children were being held. Most of the children did not have their parents with them when they crossed the border. The information was shared with members of Congress, who in turn shared it with the Times.
September 6, 2018
Washington, D.C.— Today, the Trump administration proposed new regulations that could lead to the indefinite detention—and needless suffering—of asylum-seeking children. The new guidelines are related to the 1997 Flores settlement agreement, which concerns the care and custody of immigrant children. Although these proposed regulations are supposed to ensure the appropriate treatment of children, instead, they would weaken protections for children and place them at greater risk of trauma and mistreatment.
The following statement is from Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council:
“Under the Flores settlement, all children must be treated with ‘dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors,’ but these new regulations would do the opposite. The federal government’s proposal would expand family detention, lock up parents and children indefinitely, and hold them in unsafe conditions. From our hands-on work providing legal services to detained families through the Dilley Pro Bono Project, we have seen the indecency and serious harm caused by detaining children. And we know, after witnessing the trauma-inducing practice of family separation, child welfare has never been a priority for this administration. This proposal is further evidence of that fact.”
“The manner in which this administration treats migrant children shocks the conscience. Harsh treatment of children must never be the solution. There are viable alternatives to detention that are more humane, less costly, and just as effective at ensuring people comply with their obligations as they face removal proceedings.”
While some members of the Trump administration have denied that separating migrant children from their parents at the US-Mexico border is part of a bargaining strategy, Attorney General Jeff Sessions says the policy is being used as a deterrent. Sessions’ “zero-tolerance” policy that takes migrant children away from their parents is being criticized by a bipartisan group of more than 70 former US attorneys. Polls show two-thirds of Americans do not support the Trump administration policy.