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 the Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef) provided Know Your Rights presentations and conducted legal screenings for at least 2,356 unaccompanied children exiting CBP custody. “During these legal screenings,” reads ImmDef’s complaint, “staff asked children to describe their experience being processed through the U.S. immigration system, with a focus on the conditions in CBP custody.”
ImmDef’s complaint cites the following examples of CBP personnel confiscating children’s documents:
- P.A.M. [a sixteen-year-old child from Mexico] was ultimately hospitalized for two days because she began experiencing contractions and had a high-risk pregnancy. CBP refused to give her the discharge documents that had important information for her follow up appointments.
- L.G.O. is a thirteen-year-old child from El Salvador… Upon apprehension, her birth certificate was confiscated and never returned to her, and she was not allowed to make any phone calls.
- D.S. is a seventeen-year-old child from Romania who was held in CBP custody for five days. When he was taken into custody, CBP confiscated his passport.… D.S. did not have access to sufficient interpretation services and was forced to sign some documents that were never explained to him in Romanian. D.S.’s passport was never returned to him.
“It is not limited to one child or one instance,” ImmDef’s complaint concludes.
It is not limited to the conduct of a “bad apple” employee within the agency. It is not limited to even a rogue or remote CBP outpost that lacks training and resources. The sheer number of children who have reported abuse, many of whom told us that they fear retaliation and were afraid to speak up, suggests that these examples are but a fraction of the actual total.
— Hannah Comstock, Carson Scott, Madeline Sachs, “Abuse of Unaccompanied Minors in Customs and Border Protection Custody, January to December 2021” (Los Angeles: Immigrant Defenders Law Center, 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.