Migrant children held in Yuma, Arizona detention centers are now alleging sexual abuse and retaliation by U.S. border agents, according to NBC News.
A 16-year-old boy in the facility said that he and some other children in his cell complained to the guards about the taste of the water and the food. In response, guards took the mats out of their cells. The detainees had no choice then but to sleep on the hard concrete floor.
A 15-year-old girl in the same facility described sexual abuse by one officer who put his hands in her bra and pulled down her underwear during a “routine” pat-down in front of other officers and detainees. She said “she felt embarrassed as the officer was speaking in English to other officers and laughing” while he groped her.
Yuma has been reported to have crowded and unsanitary conditions as well as rampant abuses. Children in the facility report being denied showers, phone calls, and food.
Acting secretary of the DHS Kevin McAleenan says the reports are “unsubstantiated.”
In a statement, a CBP spokesperson said, "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."
Acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services said that investigations are underway. On MSNBC he said, “Anyone involved in sexual assault or physical harassment like that I would, of course, expect to be fired, not merely disciplined.”
Laura Belous, an advocacy attorney for the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, said that her group was “horrified and sickened by the allegations of abuse… But unfortunately, we are not surprised.” She said, “The children that we represent have been reported being held in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions for days.”
She continued, "Our clients tell us that they have seen CBP agents kick other children awake, that children do not know whether it’s day or night because lights are left on all the time, and that they have had food thrown at them like they were wild animals."
When Representative Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) visited the Yuma border station, he said “the human condition that I observed in Yuma was the worst state of the human condition I have ever seen in my life.”
Read the full story here.