More than 4,500 complaints of sexual abuse were filed with the federal government over a period of four years regarding migrant children held in federal custody, The New York Times reported last month.
Records of those complaints also reveal that there was an increase while the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy was in effect, whereby thousands of children were separated from their parents at the southern U.S. border.
The Times said Justice Department records pertaining to unaccompanied minors or those separated at the border “detailed allegations that adult staff members had harassed and assaulted children, including fondling and kissing minors, watching them as they showered, and raping them.”
In total, from October 2014 to July 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement — which cares for migrant children in federal custody — received 4,556 complaints of alleged sexual abuse or harassment.
Of those complaints, 1,303 were referred to the Justice Department and 178 involved allegations of sexual abuse by adult staff members; the rest involved minors allegedly assaulting other minors.
According to the Times, the number of assault allegations varied little from month-to-month over that four-year period, until the Trump administration implemented its separation policy.
Between “March 2018 to July 2018, the agency received 859 complaints, the largest number of reports during any five-month span in the previous four years,” the Times reported.
The report indicated that 342 of those complaints were passed on to the Justice Department.
Cmdr. Jonathan White of the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps said during a congressional hearing in February that “vast majority of allegations proved to be unfounded.”