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Thousands of allegations of sexual abuse against unaccompanied minors (UAC) in the custody of the U.S. government have been reported over the past 4 years, according to Department of Health and Human Services documents given to Axios by Rep. Ted Deutch's office.

Expand chart
Data: Dept. of Health and Human Services; Note: The type of perpetrator is only known for cases ORR reported to DOJ; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Allegations against staff members reported to the DOJ included everything from rumors of relationships with UACs to showing pornographic videos to minors to forcibly touching minors’ genitals.

By the numbers: From October 2014 to July 2018, the HHS' Office of Refugee Resettlement received 4,556 complaints, and the Department of Justice received 1,303 complaints. This includes 178 allegations of sexual abuse by adult staff.

What they're saying: Deutch said these documents were included in HHS' response to a House Judiciary Committee request for information made in January.

  • "This behavior — it's despicable, it's disgusting, and this is just the start of questions that HHS is going to have to answer about how they handle these and what's happening in these facilities," Deutch told Axios.

HHS' response, per spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley:

  • “The safety of minors is our top concern when administering our unaccompanied alien children program. Each of our grantees running standard shelters is licensed by the respective state for child care services. In addition to other rigorous standards put in place by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) at HHS' Administration for Children and Families, background checks of all facility employees are mandatory."
  • “These are vulnerable children in difficult circumstances, and ORR fully understands its responsibility to ensure that each child is treated with the utmost care. When any allegations of abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect are made, they are taken seriously and ORR acts swiftly to investigate and respond."

Details: One of the documents given to Axios, embedded below, gives some detail about the allegations, although it only includes descriptions of the incidences for fiscal years 2015 and 2016. We also don't know what happened to the accused staffers in fiscal years 2017 and 2018.

  • Based on the information provided in the documents, it's unclear whether there's overlap between allegations reported to ORR and those made to DOJ. Axios assumed that some ORR allegations are referred to DOJ, so the numbers included in our chart are conservative.
  • All allegations referred to DOJ are also referred to HHS, according to the documents.
  • In many cases, the staff members were removed from duty and ultimately fired.

ORR's sexual assault policy

Details on the sexual abuse allegations

Go deeper

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker

Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates

A teacher prepares a hallway barrier to help students maintain social distancing at John B. Wright Elementary School in Tucson, Arizona, on Aug. 14, 2020. Photo: Cheney Orr/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) filed a lawsuit Friday against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop allocating federal COVID relief funds to schools that don't comply with public health recommendations such as masking, the Arizona Republic reports.

Why it matters: The Treasury Department said last week that the state would have to pay back the money if Ducey does not redesignate the $173 million programs to ensure they don't "undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19."

Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers

President Biden speaking from Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Jan. 21. Photo: Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal workers on Friday, citing the outcome of last week's Supreme Court ruling that nullified the administration's vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

Why it matters: It's a blow to President Biden's efforts to increase the U.S.' vaccination rates, though much of the federal workforce has already been vaccinated against the virus.