2021, all year

Four children’s defense organizations filed complaints in a California district court after hearing unaccompanied migrant children narrate abuse and poor treatment while in short-term CBP custody during 2021 (original link). The complaints were filed on April 11, 2022 and shared by VICE News on May 2, 2022.

During 2021, attorneys from Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) met with about 4,515 unaccompanied minor migrant children at 12 Office of Refugee Resettlement shelters in New York City, Houston, Atlanta, and Seattle. “During these screenings,” reads KIND’s complaint, “minors reported numerous civil rights violations during their apprehension and detention by CBP.”

KIND’s complaint cites the following examples of CBP personnel using excessive force or physical roughness with children:

  • We received widespread reports of officers who woke up sleeping children, often in the early morning or middle of the night, by screaming at them, kicking them, hitting them, kicking the mats they were sleeping on, or pulling the mats out from under them. We also received reports of officers shoving children, grabbing and pulling them by the ear, arm, or clothing, and using intimidating body language.
  • children report having been so terrified by the violent and aggressive behavior of officers that they cried or were unable to sleep or eat. They describe feelings of extreme anxiety and sadness. Some have nightmares about their time in CBP detention and experience other psycho-somatic symptoms, such as shaking or crying, when recalling the harm they suffered.
  • a female minor, who wishes to remain anonymous, was 17 years old at the time she was detained for approximately 14 days. She states that she was treated very poorly by officials and that they woke her up every morning by kicking her.

— Carly Sessions, “Widespread infringement of the civil rights and civil liberties of Unaccompanied Noncitizen Children held in the custody of CBP: January – December 2021” (United States: Kids in Need of Defense, April 6, 2022) https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21694269-alleged-abuse-of-unaccompanied-minors-in-customs-and-border-protection-custody.

— Keegan Hamilton, “Kids Allege Medical Neglect, Frigid Cells, and Rotten Burritos in Border Detention” (United States: VICE, May 2, 2022) https://www.vice.com/en/article/93b4vv/border-patrol-abuse-migrant-children.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Conditions in Custody, Use of Force

Accountability Status: Complaint Filed with CRCL, Shared with DHS OIG

Victim Classification: Female, Unaccompanied Child