This week, Donald Trump insulted yet another group of immigrants: unaccompanied children, most of whom are fleeing extreme violence in Central America. “They look so innocent,” Trump said at a meeting on immigration. “They’re not innocent.”
The same day, a report was released revealing who is really not innocent: U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which has perpetrated widespread and horrifying abuse of children in detention.
The report from ACLU is based on more than 30,000 pages of government documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), dating between 2009 and 2014.
“The misconduct demonstrated in these records is breathtaking, as is the government’s complete failure to hold officials who abuse their power accountable,” announced Mitra Ebadolahi, ACLU Border Litigation Project staff attorney. “The abuse that takes place by government officials is reprehensible and un-American.”
The shocking documents allege that CBP officials:
- Punched a child in the head three times
- Shot a stun gun on a boy, causing him to fall to the ground, shaking, with his eyes rolling back in his head
- Ran over a 17-year-old with a patrol vehicle, then punched him several times
- Threatened to rape a 16-year-old girl, deport her family and put her child in foster care
- Forced a 13-year-old boy to spend 24 hours in a freezing cold metal room, wearing only boxer shorts
- Denied detained children permission to stand or move freely for days and threatened to send children who stood up to solitary confinement in a small, freezing room
- Denied a pregnant minor medical attention when she reported pain, which preceded a stillbirth
- Subjected a 16-year-old girl to a search in which they “forcefully spread her legs and touched her private parts so hard that she screamed”
- Left a 4-pound premature baby and her young mother in an overcrowded, dirty cell full of sick people, against medical advice
- Threw out a child’s birth certificate and threatened him with sexual abuse by an adult male detainee.
“The fact that these children were already so vulnerable – most traveling alone in hopes of escaping violence and poverty in their home countries – made the unlawful and inhumane actions reflected in the documents even more distressing,” said Claudia Flores, faculty director of the International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School, whose law students helped examine the documents.
The documents also prove that U.S. officials were aware of these abuses as they were occurring, yet refused to properly investigate the cases, hold agents accountable, or enact any kind of reform. It is therefore chilling to consider what abuses are occurring under the current administration, which openly advocates cruel treatment of immigrants, including the appalling practice of separating parents from their children (and then sometimes losing track of the children).
“It’s terrifying to think that the horrible abuses described in these documents can continue and perhaps worsen under the Trump administration,” announced Astrid Dominguez, director of the ACLU Border Rights Center. “It’s unacceptable that there are no mechanisms in place to shed light on CBP’s abuses and ensure accountability.”
“All human beings deserve to be treated with dignity and respect regardless of their immigration status,” says ACLU attorney Ebadolahi, “and children, in particular, deserve special protection.”