According to Axios and the Department of Health and Human Services, there have been thousands of allegations of sexual abuse from unaccompanied minors (UAC) in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers over the past four years.
The allegations range from stories of staff relationships with UACs to showing minors pornographic videos and touching minors’ genitals.
HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement received 4,556 complaints from October 2014 to July 2018. More, the Department of Justice received 1,303 complaints, including 178 allegations of sexual abuse by staff.
Ted Deutch, who provided the documents from the Department of Health and Human Services, said, "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."
Caitlin Oakley, a spokesperson for HHS, responded to the allegations:
“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."
She continued, “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."
In many of the cases of sexual abuse allegations, staff were removed from duty and fired.