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.

Between 2019 and 2021, attorneys from Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice) interviewed approximately 12,731 unaccompanied migrant children at Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) facilities. The organization’s complaint includes numerous examples from 2021 and 2022 of mistreatment of children while in CBP custody.

“6% reported verbal abuse and/or harassment by adult immigration officials,” reads AI Justice’s complaint, citing the following examples:

  • J.E.A., 15, reported one officer swearing at him and using the word “f-ck” and having officers laugh but not understanding exactly what was being said to him or about him.
  • D.C.L., 16, stated that there were two officers that would yell at the detained children for any perceived misstep and feeling very intimidated. He stated: “It felt so horrible, you were trapped.” He reported feeling that there was a lot of racism and not understanding why he was being treated so poorly when he came to the U.S. seeking safety.
  • H.M.C., 15, stated an officer said “shut your f-cking mouth” after he attempted to help other migrants understand his order. He also reported several officers would threaten to send youth back to their countries and boasted that they could easily do so.
  • C.R.F., 17, stated an officer told him he would be returned to Honduras to frighten him. He cried after that. He remembers officers saying things like “this is not your country, and you are here illegally” to put them down.
  • K.X.S., 16, stated that officers harassed her about her age and were making jokes at her expense. She reported that they said she looked older and threatened to send her to jail.
  • A.B.B., 17, reported being yelled at for greeting someone she recognized during her registration and accusing her of providing a fake birth certificate.
  • K.V.A., 16, witnessed others being verbally berated and kicked awake if they were not responsive.

— Jennifer Anzardo, Maite García, “U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Consistent Failure to Comply with the Terms of the Flores Settlement Agreement and Their Own Standards on the Transport, Escort, Detention and Search of Unaccompanied Children” (United States: Americans for Immigrant Justice, 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, Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody

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

Victim Classification: Female, Unaccompanied Child