Jul 9, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Migrant children in Arizona report abuse from CBP officers

This image shows a line of children boarding a bus.

Buses take migrants to reunite with their families in Yuma, Arizona on May 07, 2019. Photo: Ash Ponders for The Washington Post via Getty Images

Migrant children detained in Yuma, Arizona, have reported sexual abuse and degrading language by Customs and Border Patrol officers, as well as unsanitary and crowded conditions, NBC reports.

The big picture, via Axios' Stef Kight: The government is struggling to hold the surge of migrant children and families who have been crossing the border over the past year. That surge is drawing critical attention to a system that is failing to provide proper care — and often times hurting — children in its custody.

Details: In nearly 30 accounts prepared between April 10 and June 12 by HHS case managers, kids held in the Yuma Border Patrol station described "being denied a phone call, not being offered a shower, sleeping on concrete or outside with only a Mylar blanket, and feeling hungry before their 9 p.m. dinnertime," NBC reports.

  • Children have reported seeing CBP agents kick other children awake, advocacy attorney Laura Belous told NBC. Her clients also reported having food thrown at them.
  • A 15-year-old girl from Honduras said she was groped by a male officer during what should have been a routine pat down — and the man laughed at other officers while doing it.
  • A 17-year-old boy from Honduras said CBP officers would call children "puto" if they stood too close to a window.

For the record: "All children who gave accounts to case managers had been held at the border station longer than the 72 hours permitted by law," NBC reports. The Flores settlement dictates that children detained by CBP are turned over to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, an extension of the Department of Health and Human Services, within 72 hours.

Flashback: Last month, lawyers said they found inadequate food and water, untreated flu and lice outbreaks, and kids being deprived of soap, blankets and toothbrushes at a Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas.

  • Some children said they were kept at the Clint facility for weeks, NPR reports — also in violation of the Flores settlement.
"U.S. Customs and Border Protection treats those in our custody with dignity and respect and provides multiple avenues to report any allegations of misconduct. ... The allegations do not align with common practice at our facilities and will be fully investigated. It’s important to note that the allegation of sexual assault is already under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General."
— A CBP spokesperson in a statement to NBC, on the Yuma allegations

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