Things That Matter

A Honduran Teens Says An Officer Groped Her Breast And Touched Her Between Her Legs In Front Of Officers

Migrant children held in Yuma, Arizona are accusing U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents of sexual assault and retaliation for protests, according to dozens of accounts by children collected by government case managers reports NBC News

The accounts obtained by NBC News detail a 15-year-old girl from Honduras who describes an officer putting his hands inside her bra, pulling down her underwear and groping her as part of what was supposed to be a routine pat-down. 

She recounts that it was done in front of other immigrants and officers. The young girl said “she felt embarrassed as the officer was speaking in English to other officers and laughing” during the entire process. 

The latest details to surface about the inhumane and despicable mistreatment of migrant children in detention facilities aren’t –– unfortunately –– anything out of the ordinary. 

For example, last month nearly 300 migrant children were removed from a border facility in Texas after reports of lawyers describing “appalling” and potentially dangerous conditions surfaced, according to NBC News. In El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, horrific conditions were detailed where children and other migrants were being held in overcrowded border stations where they were not given showers, the appropriate space to sleep or a clean change of clothes. 

Now, with the recent sexual assault allegations made against U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents in Arizona –– the abuse and barbaric treatment of migrant children has extended beyond Texas. About 30 of the statements collected from the children, and obtained by NBC News, “include allegations of sexual assault and retaliation for protests.” 

A 17-year-old boy from Honduras said that CBP agents would reprimand other detained children when they would get too close to a window. He said they would sometimes call them “puto” –– and other derogatory terms in Spanish –– while giving orders. 

Another 16-year-old Guatemalan boy held in Yuma, Arizona said he and others in his cell raised concerns about the taste of the water and food they were being fed. As a form of retaliation, CBP agents took the mats out of their cell and forced them to sleep on the hard concrete floor. 

And still, the Trump administration, as well as U.S. Customs and Border Protection, are attempting to deny the allegations made by migrant children. 

For example, President Trump tweeted, “The Fake News Media, in particular, the failing @nytimes is writing phony and exaggerated accounts of the Border Detention Centers. First of all, people should not be entering our Country illegally, only for us to then have to care for them. We should be allowed to focus on United States citizen first.”

In a series of tweets, he went on to defend U.S. Customs and Border Protection saying they “have been doing a great job” and that “the Fake News & the Dems” are manufacturing this crisis of inhumane treatment at immigration detention facilities along the U.S. border. 

“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,” a CBP spokesperson told NBC News in response to the Yuma allegations. “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.” 

The acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, said July 10 that the allegations are currently under investigation, “this isn’t just one review, it will be multiple reviews.” 

On MSNBC, he also said, “anyone involved in sexual assault or physical harassment like that I would, of course, expect to be fired, not merely disciplined.” 

These allegations (first reported by NBC News) against CBP from young migrant children in Yuma, Arizona, include documents that case managers for the Department of Health and Human Services (the department responsible for migrant children after they leave CBP custody) prepared sometime between April 10 and June 12. 

Further, according to accounts obtained by NBC, migrant children reported going to bed hungry “because dinner was usually served sometime after 9 p.m. and by that time she was already asleep.” 

The children who gave the accounts to case managers about the mistreatment and also sexual assault allegations that happened in Yuma, Arizona had been held that the border station longer than the 72 hours permitted by law. 

“Other children described being scared of the officers and said the officers would get angry if they asked for anything. One child wore soiled underwear for the 10 days he was in the border station because he was afraid to ask the officers for a clean pair, according to one of the reports. Another, a 15-year-old girl from Guatemala, described the food as ‘gross and cold most of the time,'” reports Jacob Soboroff and Julia Ainsley from NBC News

According to the reports, nearly every child that was interviewed by a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) caseworker after leaving Yuma detention center reported poor sleeping conditions. The children said they weren’t given a mattress, a pillow, or a blanket to sleep with. Most were simply given a Mylar blanket instead.

Advocacy attorney for the organization Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, Laura Belous, which provides legal services to migrant children, told NBC News that she was “horrified and sickened by the allegations of abuse… but unfortunately, we are not surprised.” 

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