"Welcome to Hell:" The Border Patrol's Repeated Abuse of Children
06/24/2014 James Lyall Staff Lawyer, ACLU Border Litigation Project
Detainees wrested from sleep every 30 minutes, the lights in their frigid cells never turned off. One detainee told by officials, don't lie or you'll be raped. Another detainee sexually abused by guards. Detainees forced to stand in stress positions. Others denied adequate food, water, and medical treatment and held in dehumanizing conditions. "Welcome to hell," one guard told a detainee, a good metaphor for what occurs across these sites of torment.
These incidents don't come from military prisons in Iraq or Afghanistan or CIA black sites. This has been happening for years along the Southwest border in U.S. government facilities run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and its Border Patrol. The victims: children, some as young as infants, as documented in a recent complaint filed by a group of immigrant rights advocates who interviewed 116 unaccompanied children previously held in CBP custody.
Just as appalling, government agencies have known about these abuses for a long time, but failed to take action. Now, more children are vulnerable to harm in Border Patrol custody than ever before. Since October, 47,000 children have left their homes in Central America, mainly in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, for the United States. They flee destabilizing violence and crime fomented by criminal syndicates and gangs, more often than not without a loved one leading the way....
One in four detained children reported physical abuse at the hands of CBP, including sexual assaults and beatings. More than half reported verbal abuse, including racist and sexist insults and even death threats, as well as the denial of urgent medical care.....
Seven out of ten interviewed reported detentions lasting longer than the 72-hour period mandated by law. Three out of ten children reported that their belongings were confiscated and never returned. Many others reported being shackled during transport, the metal restraints excruciatingly digging into their wrists and ankles. Eighty percent reported CBP personnel denied them adequate food and water.
Systemic Abuse of Unaccompanied Immigrant Children by U.S. Customs and Border Protection