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 troubling anecdotes about children’s apprehensions by CBP personnel:

  • At least two minors reported having guns pointed at them when they were being detained by officers, and another reported hearing shots fired when officers attempted to detain her and members of her group.
  • Debra [pseudonym] was 15 years old when two male immigration officers detained her in Arizona on or about October 9, 2021. The officers never gave their names, but she remembers they wore green uniforms. She was very frightened when she encountered the officials. One of them violently grabbed her by the sweater, forced her face-down to the ground, and put his knee in her back while handcuffing her. She was in a great deal of pain, and it was extremely difficult to breathe. She lay face-down on the ground for approximately 2 minutes, with the officer’s body pressure on her back. The officer was violent and aggressive, and Debra was terrified. The officer did not speak to her in a language she could understand except when he told her in Spanish to “get up” off the ground. During this violent encounter, she sustained abrasions and bruises to her face and legs, and she was sore, especially on her back and shoulders, for several days after the encounter. After her apprehension, Debra was taken to a detention facility and spoke with a medical provider for 2 minutes or less, but they told her there was nothing they could do for her injuries. They did not clean her injuries or provide her with any bandages. She was also interviewed by a female immigration officer who explained that she was the “police of the police.” The woman introduced herself, but Debra does not recall the woman’s name. She does, however, remember that the woman was wearing a blue uniform. The woman in the blue uniform interviewed Debra for about 20 minutes, asked about her injuries, and took photos. However, nobody explained what would be done with the information obtained during the interview.

— 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 of Arrest or Apprehension, Use of Force

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

Victim Classification: Female, Unaccompanied Child