Thousands of unaccompanied migrant children say they were sexually abused while in US custody

immigrant child in custodyMore than 4,500 complaints of sexual abuse against unaccompanied migrant minors have been received by the Department of Health and Human Services in the past four years, CNN reports. CNN and Axios say Rep.Ted Deutch (D-FL) released internal HHS documents supporting the claims, along with 1,303 complaints that were reported to the Justice Department. Axios first reported on the agency documents.

“I am deeply concerned with documents that have been turned over by HHS that record a high number of sexual assaults on unaccompanied children in the custody of the Office of Refugee and Resettlement,” Deutch said. “Together, these documents detail an environment of systemic sexual assaults by staff on unaccompanied children.”

According to Axios, “Allegations against staff members reported to the DOJ included everything from rumors of relationships with (unaccompanied minors) UACs to showing pornographic videos to minors to forcibly touching minors’ genitals.”

Appeals court to decide if immigrant children get court-appointed attorneys

immigrant child in custodyEleven federal appeals court judges have heard testimony in a lawsuit over whether undocumented children have the right to a government-paid lawyer. Lawyers for an immigrant minor who was unrepresented in immigration hearings argue that the Fifth Amendment guarantees the minor the right to an attorney, according to KPIX. 

“We want a ruling that children facing deportation are entitled to legal representation,” said C.J.’s lawyer Ahilan Arulanantham, told reporters after the hearing. Arulanantham, who is Senior Counsel at the ACLU of Southern California, argued the case before the judges.

Cost is an issue. If each of the 102,000 migrant juveniles apprehended near the US-Mexico border were provided an attorney, it would cost more than $276 million, KPIX reports. Meanwhile, the minor plaintiff in the lawsuit is attending high school in Los Angeles while he awaits the panel’s decision, which is expected in 2019.

Video: Traumatized children at the border

migrant familiesIn June, a Honduran woman seeking asylum in the US and her five-year-old son were forcibly separated at the Mexican border. A pro bono lawyer, Jodi Goodwin, helped reunite them after they spent a month apart. The Atlantic has produced a documentary called The Separated that shows the chaos and trauma caused by migrant families being torn apart.

American Immigration Council Condemns Administration’s Proposal to Indefinitely Detain Children

immigrant child in custodySeptember 6, 2018

Washington, D.C.— Today, the Trump administration proposed new regulations that could lead to the indefinite detention—and needless suffering—of asylum-seeking children. The new guidelines are related to the 1997 Flores settlement agreement, which concerns the care and custody of immigrant children. Although these proposed regulations are supposed to ensure the appropriate treatment of children, instead, they would weaken protections for children and place them at greater risk of trauma and mistreatment.

The following statement is from Beth Werlin, executive director of the American Immigration Council:

“Under the Flores settlement, all children must be treated with ‘dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors,’ but these new regulations would do the opposite. The federal government’s proposal would expand family detention, lock up parents and children indefinitely, and hold them in unsafe conditions. From our hands-on work providing legal services to detained families through the Dilley Pro Bono Project, we have seen the indecency and serious harm caused by detaining children. And we know, after witnessing the trauma-inducing practice of family separation, child welfare has never been a priority for this administration. This proposal is further evidence of that fact.”

“The manner in which this administration treats migrant children shocks the conscience. Harsh treatment of children must never be the solution. There are viable alternatives to detention that are more humane, less costly, and just as effective at ensuring people comply with their obligations as they face removal proceedings.”