59 Records of Alleged Abusive or Improper Conduct where the event type is “Conditions in Custody”

August 9, 2022

A DHS Inspector-General report, based on seven October 2021 unannounced inspections of El Paso-area CBP facilities, found Border Patrol holding hundreds of migrants in custody for longer than the normal 72-hour limit, despite a lack of overcrowding (original link). In addition, “Border Patrol held some migrants placed for expulsion under Title 42 authorities for longer than 14 days, which is inconsistent with Border Patrol policy,” and CBP was “inconsistent” in its separation of juveniles from unrelated adults in custody.

El Paso Sector Border Patrol Struggled with Prolonged Detention and Consistent Compliance with TEDS Standards (Washington: Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector-General, August 9, 2022) https://www.oig.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/assets/2022-08/OIG-22-57-Aug22.pdf.

Sector(s): El Paso, El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody

Last Known Accountability Status: DHS OIG investigation Closed

Victim Classification:

May 2, 2022

A brief May 9 statement from CBP noted the arrest of a Del Rio Sector Border Patrol agent “on a warrant stemming from an indictment on a charge of Official Oppression in connection with the alleged assault and mistreatment of a juvenile in custody.” (original link) No further details appeared.

— “CBP Statement on Arrest of Del Rio Sector Border Patrol Agent” (Washington: Customs and Border Protection, May 6, 2022) https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/speeches-and-statements/cbp-statement-arrest-del-rio-sector-border-patrol-agent.

Sector(s): Del Rio

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

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

Last Known Accountability Status: Criminal Charges Pending

Victim Classification:

Late March, 2022

The Kino Border Initiative (KBI) spoke with five migrants, removed to Nogales, who had been traveling with Carmelo Cruz-Marcos, a Mexican migrant who was shot to death by a Border Patrol agent on February 19:

Five members of the group traveling with the migrant who was murdered by Border Patrol on February 19th arrived at Kino earlier this month. They had all been held a month and a half in detention as witnesses to the crime. One of those in the group was a cousin of the victim, and was not informed for a week that his cousin had died.

When the group was expelled to Nogales, Sonora, Border Patrol did not return their identification or the money they had with them when they were detained.

— “March 31 Update from KBI” (Nogales: Kino Border Initiative, March 31, 2022).

Sector(s): Tucson

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Confiscation of Documents, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Shared with Congressional Oversight Committees, Unknown

Victim Classification: Single Adult

March, 2022

An April 2022 report from Human Rights First, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado recounts the experience of a Honduran asylum-seeking family that spent three days in CBP custody before being expelled into Mexico under Title 42.

CBP held an asylum-seeking Honduran family in freezing cells for days before expelling them under Title 42 without their belongings to Mexico where they were kidnapped just prior to attempting to seek asylum near Calexico. During their three days in CBP custody, the family of three children and their mother were forced to sleep on the floor of a freezing cold holding cell with nothing but foil blankets to keep warm. When CBP expelled the family under Title 42 to San Luis Río Colorado, the officers did not return the family’s possessions, including money, luggage, and medications. They received only their shoes, which were soaking wet and covered in dirt causing painful blisters to develop as the family walked in search of a bus to take them to a shelter.

Extending Title 42 Would Escalate Dangers, Exacerbate Disorder, and Magnify Discrimination (New York: Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Al Otro Lado, April 27, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/extending-title-42-would-escalate-dangers-exacerbate-disorder-and-magnify-discrimination.

Sector(s): El Centro, San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Non-Return of Belongings

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Family Unit, Honduras

March, 2022

An April 2022 report from Human Rights First, the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and Al Otro Lado recounts the days-long separation of a Haitian family in CBP custody, along with allegations of racist language.

An asylum-seeking Haitian family expelled under Title 42 to Haiti and forced to flee again reported in March 2022 that during the expulsion CBP officers separated the parents from their 16-year-old daughter and subjected the girl to racist abuse. The family was detained for days in freezing cold CBP holding cells, with the teenager held separately with other children. She told Human Rights First that during the painful days she was detained away from her parents U.S. officers called her racist names including the N-word.

Extending Title 42 Would Escalate Dangers, Exacerbate Disorder, and Magnify Discrimination (New York: Human Rights First, Haitian Bridge Alliance, Al Otro Lado, April 27, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/extending-title-42-would-escalate-dangers-exacerbate-disorder-and-magnify-discrimination.

Sector(s): San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Family Separation, Racial Discrimination or Profiling

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Accompanied Child, Black, Family Unit, Female, Haiti

February 14, 2022

The August 16, 2022 San Diego Union-Tribune recounted the story of “Lucy” (real name withheld), a Salvadoran mother who crossed the eastern California border with her children. According to her attorney, Lucy was fleeing death threats.

She claimed that a Border Patrol agent beat her during her apprehension, that she was denied medical attention, and that agents separate her from her 10-year-old daughter.

They were with a group of other migrants resting along a train line in Calipatria — a city about 35 miles north of Calexico — on Feb. 14 when Border Patrol agents found them.

Lucy said she went to wake up her 18-year-old son Anner as the other migrants fled. A Border Patrol agent caught her and began beating her, she said.

“The truth is I thought he was going to kill me because he had hit me so much,” she told the Union-Tribune.

Her children watched in horror and begged another agent to get him to stop, she said, but the other agent said that he couldn’t because of who the agent attacking her was.

Lucy, who is less than 5 feet tall, attempted to free herself from the agent to save herself, she said. Anner threw a couple of rocks near the agent to try to get him to stop.

The agent did stop, and Lucy escaped to where the other agent was standing with her children, she said.

They were taken to a Border Patrol station, and though Lucy was bleeding from the head and lip and already quite bruised, she did not receive medical attention, she said.

She recalled the agents bullying her and laughing at her.

She was placed in a holding area with her daughter, but soon agents came to take Lucy away. It would be more than a month before she even had an idea of where her daughter ended up.

“They didn’t even give me a chance to say goodbye,” Lucy said. “They took me out and handcuffed me.”

She was taken to a federal facility in Arizona to wait because she was being charged with assaulting and intimidating the agent that she says attacked her, a felony. Anner was charged with a misdemeanor and held in another facility.

The FBI agent who investigated the incident noted in a court filing that Anner told him that the Border Patrol agent was punching his mother.

In May, the U.S. Attorney’s Office asked the judge to dismiss the charges, and the case was dropped.

— Kate Morrissey, “Family Separations at the Border Continue Under Biden” (San Diego: The San Diego Union-Tribune, August 17, 2022) https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2022-08-16/family-separations-at-the-border-continue-under-biden.

Sector(s): El Centro

Agency(ies): Border Patrol

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Conditions of Arrest or Apprehension, Denial of Medical Care, Family Separation, Use of Force

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: El Salvador, Family Unit

January 13, 2022

A January 2022 Human Rights First report recounted the experience of four Nicaraguan and Venezuelan asylum seekers who were laterally flown from McAllen to El Paso, Texas, detained for more than 10 days, then placed into the “Remain in Mexico” (RMX) program.

The men had crossed the border near the Rio Grande Valley in November 2021, where CBP initially detained them in horrible conditions in hieleras (extremely cold cells), woke them in the middle of the night, shackled them by their hands, feet, and waists, and then flew them to El Paso. There they were held in CBP cells for several more days before being sent to Ciudad Juárez under RMX. CBP falsely told some of the men that they were being transferred for release to family members in the United States.

A Shameful Record: Biden Administration’s Use of Trump Policies Endangers People Seeking Asylum (New York: Human Rights First: January 13, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/shameful-record-biden-administration-s-use-trump-policies-endangers-people-seeking-asylum.

Sector(s): El Paso, El Paso Field Office, Rio Grande Valley

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, CBP

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification: Nicaragua, Single Adult, Venezuela

January 13, 2022

According to a January 2022 Human Rights First report on the “Remain in Mexico” (RMX) program in El Paso, “Some migrants and asylum seekers said CBP officers refused to provide masks to detainees who requested them and that some CBP officers were themselves not consistently wearing personal protective equipment.” In San Diego in early January 2022, one man “reported that CBP officers refused to provide him a mask when he requested one.”

A Shameful Record: Biden Administration’s Use of Trump Policies Endangers People Seeking Asylum (New York: Human Rights First: January 13, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/shameful-record-biden-administration-s-use-trump-policies-endangers-people-seeking-asylum.

Sector(s): El Paso, El Paso Field Office, San Diego, San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Disregard of Public Health

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

January 13, 2022

A January 2022 Human Rights First report, discussing implementation of the “Remain in Mexico” (RMX) program in El Paso, reported that “CBP did not permit detained migrants and asylum seekers, many of whom were detained for nearly two weeks, to call their families to inform them of their whereabouts.”

After their return to Mexico under RMX, many learned that CBP officers had lied to them when the officers claimed that CBP would contact their family members in the United States, leaving their families in anguish for weeks uncertain as to the fate of their loved ones.

A Shameful Record: Biden Administration’s Use of Trump Policies Endangers People Seeking Asylum (New York: Human Rights First: January 13, 2022) https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/resource/shameful-record-biden-administration-s-use-trump-policies-endangers-people-seeking-asylum.

Sector(s): El Paso, El Paso Field Office

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Conditions in Custody, Lying or Deliberate Misleading

Last Known Accountability Status: Unknown

Victim Classification:

January 5, 2022

In the January 8, 2022 San Diego Union-Tribune, reporter Kate Morrissey recounted the experience of two Colombian men who, on January 5, were the first to be sent back to Tijuana under the revived “Remain in Mexico” program. She found that what they underwent “included many of the issues that plagued the program under the Trump administration.”

The Biden administration’s December 2 guidance for the restarted program promised access to counsel. But Morrissey found that “the two Colombian men were not allowed to speak with attorneys while in U.S. custody.” The wife of one of the men, a green card holder in the United States, could have hired an attorney for him to support his claim of fear of return to Mexico, but officials denied his request to call her.

The men, who had turned themselves in to U.S. personnel in order to seek protection after receiving urgent threats in Colombia, recounted poor treatment in CBP custody. They were placed in a cell in a Border Patrol station with “dozens of other men,” forced to sleep on the floor for nearly a week, with lights always on, for lack of bed space. They were not given an opportunity to bathe or shower. “Though they do not speak much English, they realized that agents were speaking badly about them, they said. They recognized words like ‘stupid’ and phrases like ‘go back to your country.’”

As required by the new guidelines, a Border Patrol agent asked the men if they were afraid to return to Mexico, although they said “another agent tried to keep that official from asking the question.” Under the Biden administration’s new guidance, after expressing fear the men were entitled to 24 hours to contact an attorney before speaking with an asylum officer. It was during those 24 hours, they said, that CBP personnel refused to allow them “to make any calls or otherwise access legal counsel.”

They said an agent told them that no matter what happened, they would be sent back to Mexico. So, when the asylum officer asked if they wanted to wait longer in custody in order to access attorneys, the men waived that right, not wanting to spend more time in the crowded cell with their fate already decided.

The men added that they were not asked detailed questions about their medical history, even though the Biden administration’s new guidelines specify medical conditions for exemption from the program (original link). Though the guidance directs that those subject to Remain in Mexico are to receive COVID-19 vaccinations if they need them, one man who had only received the first of his two shots was sent over the border before officials could administer his vaccine.

CBP meanwhile confused the men’s paperwork, Morrissey found. Each man had the first page of the other’s notice to appear in court. And at first, they were scheduled for hearings months beyond the six-month limit that the Biden administration had agreed with Mexico. They managed to reschedule for February after raising the issue with their asylum officer.

Now in Tijuana, the Colombian men told Morrissey that they are “confused and terrified.” They refused to provide their names, fearing that their notoriety leaves them exposed to extortion or attack. “We’re the two from Colombia,” one said. “Everyone knows we’re them. We already have problems.”

— Kate Morrissey, “U.S. failure to follow Remain in Mexico rules show program hasn’t changed as promised” (San Diego, The San Diego Union-Tribune, January 8, 2022) https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/immigration/story/2022-01-08/remain-in-mexico-returns-to-tijuana.

— Robert Silvers, “Guidance regarding the Court-Ordered Reimplementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols” (Washington: Department of Homeland Security, December 2, 2021) https://www.dhs.gov/publication/court-ordered-reimplementation-mpp-policy-guidance.

Sector(s): San Diego, San Diego Field Office

Agency(ies): Border Patrol, Office of Field Operations

Event Type(s): Abusive Language, Conditions in Custody, Dangerous Deportation, Denial of Access to Counsel

Last Known Accountability Status: No Steps Taken

Victim Classification: Colombia, Single Adult

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 January 1 and August 13, 2021, attorneys from the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project completed intakes with about 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children. “Out of those six thousand intakes,” the attorneys’ complaint reads, “the Florence Project documented over 900 reports of abuse and legal violations by CBP. Thus, approximately 15 percent of children we interviewed who passed through CBP custody were victims of abuse at the hands of CBP. That number is unacceptably high and likely undercounts the instances of abuse because many children remained afraid to report it.”

“28 children reported CBP physical abuse to the Florence Project,” the group’s complaint reads, citing the following examples:

  • A 17-year-old minor witnessed CBP agents use a Taser gun on other children as a punishment. The child was in constant fear after seeing other children being tased on the hand and neck. Although the child looked away each time this happened, the child was able to hear the cries of the impacted children.
  • One child reported that an officer yelled at the child and threw the child to the ground. The officer held the child on the floor by putting a knee on the child’s back.
  • One child reported that a person cleaning the holding center stepped on the child’s fingers and insulted the child when the child complained. The child witnessed CBP officers kick another child three times for sleeping in the wrong place.
  • A child reported witnessing an officer kick another child in the head.
  • A child reported being woken up by officers kicking the children and their mattresses.
  • Children reported being woken by officers slapping their bed sheets.
  • A 17-year-old child reported that a CBP officer shoved the child.

— Laura Bellows, Yesenia Ramales, “Abuse of Unaccompanied Non-Citizen Children in Customs and Border Protection Custody Between January and August 2021” (Phoenix: Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, 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

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

Victim Classification: Unaccompanied Child

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 January 1 and August 13, 2021, attorneys from the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project completed intakes with about 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children. “Out of those six thousand intakes,” the attorneys’ complaint reads, “the Florence Project documented over 900 reports of abuse and legal violations by CBP. Thus, approximately 15 percent of children we interviewed who passed through CBP custody were victims of abuse at the hands of CBP. That number is unacceptably high and likely undercounts the instances of abuse because many children remained afraid to report it.”

The Florence Project’s complaint cites the following examples of CBP personnel using abusive language with children:

  • One child reported being held for five days in the holding center. CBP did not allow the child to make any phone calls and told the child that “no one loves” the child. CBP officer mocked child as the officer said it.
  • One child reported being held for ten days and receiving little water even though the child kept asking for more. CBP officers swore at the child and called the child a “criminal.”
  • 85 children reported verbal abuse by the officers in charge of taking care of them. Children reported being insulted and yelled at several times.
    • One child was called a criminal and cussed at by an officer.
    • A child reported to us that an officer called her a “bitch”.
    • One child report being called a “pendejo” (a–hole) by an officer.
    • A child reported being screamed at by an officer asking the child why the child came to the United States.
    • One child reported that CBP officers yelled at the child until the child cried.
    • A child was yelled at and threatened with deportation by the CBP officers.
    • A child reported being called a “cabrón” (a–hole/dumbass) by an officer.
    • A child reported being called “a piece of sh-t” by an officer.

— Laura Bellows, Yesenia Ramales, “Abuse of Unaccompanied Non-Citizen Children in Customs and Border Protection Custody Between January and August 2021” (Phoenix: Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, 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

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

Victim Classification: Unaccompanied Child

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 January 1 and August 13, 2021, attorneys from the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project completed intakes with about 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children. “Out of those six thousand intakes,” the attorneys’ complaint reads, “the Florence Project documented over 900 reports of abuse and legal violations by CBP. Thus, approximately 15 percent of children we interviewed who passed through CBP custody were victims of abuse at the hands of CBP. That number is unacceptably high and likely undercounts the instances of abuse because many children remained afraid to report it.”

The Florence Project’s complaint cites the following examples of CBP personnel denying food or water to children in custody:

  • One child reported being held for ten days and receiving little water even though the child kept asking for more. CBP officers swore at the child and called the child a “criminal.”
  • A 16-year-old child was detained for six days in poor conditions and lacked adequate food. The child reported stomach pains from the food the child received and was not given medical attention when it was requested.
  • One child reported that the food provided made the child sick with a headache. When the child examined the wrapper of the burritos served by CBP, they were expired.

— Laura Bellows, Yesenia Ramales, “Abuse of Unaccompanied Non-Citizen Children in Customs and Border Protection Custody Between January and August 2021” (Phoenix: Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, 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, Denial of Food or Water

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

Victim Classification: Unaccompanied Child

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 January 1 and August 13, 2021, attorneys from the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project completed intakes with about 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children. “Out of those six thousand intakes,” the attorneys’ complaint reads, “the Florence Project documented over 900 reports of abuse and legal violations by CBP. Thus, approximately 15 percent of children we interviewed who passed through CBP custody were victims of abuse at the hands of CBP. That number is unacceptably high and likely undercounts the instances of abuse because many children remained afraid to report it.”

“Approximately 14 children reported being sick or getting sick while in CBP holding centers and not receiving adequate care,” the Florence Project’s complaint reads, citing the following examples:

  • A 16-year-old child was detained for six days in poor conditions and lacked adequate food. The child reported stomach pains from the food the child received and was not given medical attention when it was requested.
  • One child reported having COVID symptoms. CBP officers ignored the child until the child insisted on a COVID test. Upon testing positive, CBP officers refused to assist the child when the child requested toilet paper and water.
  • One child reported getting stomach pains after eating frozen food. The child asked for medical attention but never received it.
  • A child held for five days was very cold and became sick but was not given medical attention despite a request to see a medical provider.
  • One child stated that the child’s sister became sick with a respiratory illness and the nurse told her to just drink water and didn’t provide medicine or a COVID test.
  • A child reported being sick for five days while detained. Although the child was vomiting and had diarrhea, the officers did not provide medical attention. One officer told the child that “if you want medication, you have to stay five more days in detention.”
  • A child reported that the child felt sick while in CBP custody. A CBP officer examined the child and said that the child was fine, but the illness worsened. After the child arrived in ORR custody and was seen by medical processional, the child was immediately instructed to begin taking medication. The child believed that CBP’s failure to provide medical assistance allowed the condition to worsen.

— Laura Bellows, Yesenia Ramales, “Abuse of Unaccompanied Non-Citizen Children in Customs and Border Protection Custody Between January and August 2021” (Phoenix: Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, 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, Denial of Medical Care

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

Victim Classification: Unaccompanied Child

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 January 1 and August 13, 2021, attorneys from the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project completed intakes with about 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children. “Out of those six thousand intakes,” the attorneys’ complaint reads, “the Florence Project documented over 900 reports of abuse and legal violations by CBP. Thus, approximately 15 percent of children we interviewed who passed through CBP custody were victims of abuse at the hands of CBP. That number is unacceptably high and likely undercounts the instances of abuse because many children remained afraid to report it.”

The Florence Project’s complaint cites the following troubling anecdotes about children’s conditions in CBP custody:

  • The child was held with a large number of other children and was only given a couch to sleep on. The child only had one opportunity to shower. The child observed cameras inside the showering area and felt very uncomfortable.
  • Seven different children reported feeling unsafe due to cameras being placed in rooms where they were showering.

— Laura Bellows, Yesenia Ramales, “Abuse of Unaccompanied Non-Citizen Children in Customs and Border Protection Custody Between January and August 2021” (Phoenix: Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, 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

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

Victim Classification: Unaccompanied Child

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 January 1 and August 13, 2021, attorneys from the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project completed intakes with about 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children. “Out of those six thousand intakes,” the attorneys’ complaint reads, “the Florence Project documented over 900 reports of abuse and legal violations by CBP. Thus, approximately 15 percent of children we interviewed who passed through CBP custody were victims of abuse at the hands of CBP. That number is unacceptably high and likely undercounts the instances of abuse because many children remained afraid to report it.”

“More than 25 children reported being held in holding centers in rooms/areas with unrelated adults,” the complaint reads. “These adults were not family or known to the children. Many of the children reported feeling afraid.”

— Laura Bellows, Yesenia Ramales, “Abuse of Unaccompanied Non-Citizen Children in Customs and Border Protection Custody Between January and August 2021” (Phoenix: Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, 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): Conditions in Custody, Endangerment

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

Victim Classification: Unaccompanied Child

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.

“1% of children reported physical abuse or excessive force,” reads AI Justice’s complaint, citing the following examples:

  • One child, D.G.M.H., 15, reported having her foot handcuffed to a chair despite being cooperative and answering CBP officers’ questions.
  • H.M.C., 15, reported that if their name was called and they did not respond because they were sleeping, officers would kick them awake. He reports that they wear heavy work boots, and this was very painful.
  • F.C.R., 15, reported being kicked awake when he was sleeping.
  • C.C.L., 10, who was held for over five days, reported feeling hungry and not being able to shower regularly during his time in CBP custody. He states that at one point during his time there he had his mattress taken away. He stated that CBP would take their mattress if they felt someone was misbehaving. He also reported that officers sometimes would use vulgar words directed at them.

— 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, Conditions in Custody, Use of Force

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

Victim Classification: Female, Unaccompanied Child

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 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 has encountered 172 children who were not given adequate food and water,” reads the organization’s complaint, which includes the following examples:

  • R.M.M. is a seventeen-year-old child from Guatemala who was detained in CBP custody for eight days, during two of which he received no food, causing him to experience head pains and stomach problems.
  • L.G.O. is a thirteen-year-old child from El Salvador who only received a single meal consisting of cold, rotten food each day she was held in CBP custody.
  • M.V.P. [a seventeen-year-old child from Guatemala] reported that she did not eat during her time at the detention center because the burritos given to the children smelled spoiled. She was given only small amounts of water.

“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.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Food or Water

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

Victim Classification: El Salvador, Female, Guatemala, Unaccompanied Child

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

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

Victim Classification: Female, Unaccompanied Child

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 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 has encountered…twenty-three children who suffered medical neglect,” reads the organization’s complaint, which includes the following examples:

  • R.M.M. [a seventeen-year-old child from Guatemala] received medication for three days, but his later requests for medical attention were outright denied. Instead, CBP officers yelled at him and called him names.
  • M.J.C. [a 14-year-old] requested medical attention, which CBP officers denied for three days, instructing her instead to lie down or sleep. CBP officers eventually had to take M.J.C. to a hospital after her symptoms worsened. Doctors later confirmed that her stomach problems were caused by the food provided in the hielera and that she was living with an untreated broken arm that she sustained during her journey. M.J.C. was eventually returned to the CBP facility, where officers withheld her medications and only provided her the same food that made her sick and landed her in the hospital. She became so hungry that she had no option but to eat the dangerous food, which unsurprisingly caused her to experience the same stomach pain. This time, however, she was too afraid to tell the officers that she was in pain and instead suffered in silence.

A June 2022 report from the Marshall Project elaborated on M.J.C.’s story:

It was during that chaos in the spring of 2021 when M.J., an unaccompanied 14-year-old girl from Guatemala, landed in a Border Patrol facility in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Instead of the maximum of 72 hours, as required, she was held for 18 days, according to case records reviewed by lawyers with the Immigrant Defenders, who are representing her in her immigration case.

M.J. had been injured in the last days of her journey across Mexico. She leapt from a moving freight train, landing on her shoulder in a bank of rocks, M.J. said in an interview in California in March. (Because she is a minor in legal proceedings, she asked that her name and exact location not be published.)

With her arm swollen and blue, M.J. turned herself in to the Border Patrol soon after crossing the Rio Grande. Agents kept her in handcuffs for 24 hours, she said, aggravating the ache.

She was moved to a vast tent holding families and minors, most likely, based on court documents, in Donna, Texas. Crammed with dozens of girls into a cell defined by clear plastic walls, M.J. slept on a narrow metal bench for nearly three weeks. To leave the cell to use the bathroom, she had to ask each girl for permission to step over. She never had a change of clothes, she said.

She fashioned a sling from a borrowed cloth to relieve the throb in her shoulder. An attendant, citing security rules, took it away, M.J. said. There were nurses on duty, but they declined to give her medication for the pain.

“No one told you to come to the United States,” she said one attendant told her.

The only food was egg burritos and beans, often half-frozen. On the fourth day, M.J. said, she started to vomit from stomach cramps and shoulder pain. The medical staff, relenting, sent her to a local clinic, where examinations revealed a fractured shoulder and severe dehydration.

A physician gave her a sling and prescribed a painkiller. After she was returned to the detention facility later that day, M.J. said, a guard took away the new sling. She never received the medication.

  • When B.T.P. [a Guatemalan girl] asked for medical assistance due to constant headaches, she was first ignored and later told that she would see a doctor. The doctor never arrived.
  • M.G.G. [a seventeen-year-old from El Salvador] also reported a lack of COVID-19 precautions and general medical neglect. When she first arrived, M.G.G. was not given a COVID-19 test and later discovered that there were people with active cases of COVID-19 held in the hielera with her. She was not provided with a mask.
  • The food in the hielera consisted of burritos that tasted spoiled, and L.L.C. [a sixteen-year-old child from Guatemala] soon became sick. When she reported feeling ill to medical staff, they did not address her concerns. As a result, L.L.C. was forced to skip meals. L.L.C. witnessed similar treatment of other children when they felt sick—CBP officers refused to provide medicine and only told the children to drink more water.
  • While crossing the border, M.V.P. [a seventeen-year-old child from Guatemala] hurt the back of her right knee while jumping over a wall. When she asked to see a doctor in the CBP facility, she was given unidentified pills but did not receive any other treatment or follow up.… After four days in CBP custody, M.V.P. began experiencing severe stomach pains and complained to CBP officers. Four hours later, she was taken to a nurse, who did not treat her. After another nine to ten hours of suffering severe pain, M.V.P. was taken to the emergency room, where she was diagnosed with dehydration and put on an IV. When she was discharged from the emergency room, the doctor gave the immigration official paperwork about her condition. M.V.P believes there was more to her condition than dehydration, but she never received a copy of that paperwork.

“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.

— Anna Flagg and Julia Preston, “‘No Place for a Child’: 1 in 3 Migrants Held in Border Patrol Facilities Is a Minor” (The Marshall Project, Politico: June 16, 2022) https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2022/06/16/border-patrol-migrant-children-detention-00039291.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

Event Type(s): Abuse of Minor, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Medical Care

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

Victim Classification: El Salvador, Female, Guatemala, Unaccompanied Child

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.

“13% of children reported lack of food and/or water,” reads AI Justice’s complaint. “Children reported that the food provided was insufficient, malnourishing, and at times, inedible due to it being spoiled or raw.” The complaint cites the following examples:

  • K.G.C., 15, reported only receiving bread despite being detained 10 days.
  • J.H.M., 9, reported receiving raw ham and burgers containing raw meat.
  • J.E.A., 15, reported being thirsty and the only access to water being right a by a bathroom with dirty water so he worried about drinking water from there. He also reported being hungry and having only been fed a sandwich.

— 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, Conditions in Custody, Denial of Food or Water

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

Victim Classification: Unaccompanied Child

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 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 encountered forty-two children who were held in unsanitary conditions, 126 children who were forced to sleep on the ground or outside, and 452 children who were detained for longer than 72 hours,” the organization’s complaint reads. “Many children also reported extremely cold temperatures and privacy violations.” Examples include:

  • [L.G.O. is a thirteen-year-old child from El Salvador, was] forced to lie on the floor without a mattress. She was unable to sleep because light and noise were constant. L.G.O. was never given the opportunity to shower.
  • H.G.C. is a sixteen-year-old child from Guatemala who was held in a hielera for three days. H.G.C. was also held in a cell that housed other detainees and contained only one, entirely exposed toilet. H.G.C.’s only hope for privacy was to ask his cellmates to move to the opposite side of the room each time he used the bathroom. During his three days in the hielera, the lights were always on, causing H.G.C. to lose sense of whether it was day or night.
  • G.G.G. is a seventeen-year-old child from Guatemala who was detained for four days in a hielera that had bathrooms without doors, leaving him and the other children without any privacy while using the toilet. The facility was kept at very cold temperatures, yet G.G.G. never received a blanket thick enough to keep him warm.… During his four days in CBP custody, G.G.G. was only allowed to make one phone call.
  • O.L.L., an eleven-year-old child from Guatemala, was detained in a hielera for seven and a half days under frigid conditions that caused his lips to turn purple. O.L.L. only speaks Spanish, yet officers spoke to him in English. He was only allowed to make one phone call every three days.
  • [D.S., a seventeen-year-old child from Romania,] was given a mylar blanket but was never provided a toothbrush or toothpaste.
  • [D.C.E., a 16-year-old,] was not given supplies to brush his teeth or take a full shower, and he did not have privacy when using the bathroom. While D.C.E. was detained, the lights were always on in the facility, making it difficult for him to distinguish between day and night. His waking hours were marked by meals consisting of old or spoiled food, which made him sick.
  • CBP officers yelled loudly near her ears [M.J.C., a 14-year-old] to wake her up and only gave her a mylar blanket to keep warm despite M.J.C.’s request for a different blanket. She was forced to sleep on a bench or on the ground close to others, in blatant disregard for the risks of such proximity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. M.J.C. was also repeatedly denied requests to use the toilet and was never given a change of clothes—for eighteen days, she wore the same dirty clothes she had arrived in.
  • M.T.P., B.T.P., and A.T.P. are three sisters from Guatemala who were detained in CBP custody for seven days, during which they experienced mistreatment and medical neglect. The T.P. sisters were placed in a dirty, crowded detention facility where they were held with other children who were sick to the point of vomiting. They were not allowed to shower for the first four days they were detained and reported that CBP failed to undertake any efforts to maintain hygiene or social distancing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. The sisters felt uncomfortable using the toilets in the facility due to the lack of privacy, and they were not provided with sufficient sanitary supplies. All three sisters experienced issues with the quality of food. M.T.P. became so sick she was forced to stop eating the burritos. Instead, she ate only a cookie and water each day and was afraid to ask CBP officers for alternatives or medicine because she had seen others being yelled at.
  • During her thirteen days in the hielera, M.G.G. [a seventeen-year-old from El Salvador] was never given a blanket or a change of clothes and was only allowed to shower once. By way of explanation, CBP officers swore at her and told her that it “wasn’t a hotel.” Every day, she was woken up early and could not sleep. M.G.G. also reported that she was given old and rotten food. For thirteen days, she was only fed burritos with rice and apples. When she told CBP officers that she felt sick, they told her to drink more water and exercise. However, she was only given a single small bottle of water each day at 6am.
  • L.L.C. [a sixteen-year-old child from Guatemala] was transferred to a hielera in Texas, where she stayed for the next twelve days. L.L.C. described the walls of the hielera as equivalent to a thick nylon, and she was held in a room approximately the size of a conference room with eighty-one other girls. The cell was so crowded that she was forced to sleep pressed up against the person next to her or sitting up. L.L.C. described being extremely cold day and night. She described feeling like she and the other children were being treated like animals. The food in the hielera consisted of burritos that tasted spoiled, and L.L.C. soon became sick. When she reported feeling ill to medical staff, they did not address her concerns. As a result, L.L.C. was forced to skip meals.… L.L.C. described that it was difficult to sleep because the CBP officers woke them every hour in order to clean the cells and the lights were always kept on. L.L.C. was only able to brush her teeth three times per week, and she was only able to bathe once during the twelve days she was held in the hielera. L.L.C. felt that there was no privacy in the bathrooms, and there were several times when she did not have toilet paper. She was only allowed to make one, two-minute telephone call, and during the call a CBP officer stood within earshot.
  • In the hielera, M.V.P. [a seventeen-year-old child from Guatemala] was confined to a cell with around eighty other people, including women with small children. M.V.P. reported that there was nowhere to sit or sleep the first night, and she slept sitting on a metal bench the following nights. The cell also contained a toilet, which was not closed off from the rest of the space. As a result, M.V.P. and her cell mates were forced to use the mylar blankets that they slept with as makeshift curtains to create privacy for the toilet. M.V.P. was not given any opportunity to shower during her time in CBP custody.
  • Once J.N.P. [a 16-year-old] arrived at the hielera, she was forced to bathe with many other girls in one bathroom. There was no privacy except for transparent curtains, and J.N.P. reported feeling very uncomfortable. The girls had to bathe without clothes on, yet officers were present with them in the bathrooms and were rude and disrespectful. When J.N.P. and some of the other girls complained, the CBP officers yelled at them and rushed them out as soon as their five minutes were up. Even after she bathed, J.N.P. developed head lice and dandruff due to the unsanitary conditions. Throughout her time in the hielera, J.N.P. was given egg burritos for every meal, which left her feeling hungry and ultimately gave her stomach pains. When she needed to use the bathroom, there was no privacy—the toilets were separated by walls on the sides but not in the front, and J.N.P. felt uncomfortable using the bathroom because others could see everything. The temperatures inside the hielera were kept extremely cold, and J.N.P. was denied blankets or more clothes when she asked. The cold made sleeping difficult, and J.N.P. was forced to sleep on a thin mat pressed up against strangers due to overcrowding. The lights were also left on the entire time, yet when J.N.P. and other children could not sleep, CBP officers only yelled at them. Throughout her time in the hielera, J.N.P. was not allowed to make any phone calls.

“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.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

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

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

Victim Classification: El Salvador, Female, Guatemala, Romania, Unaccompanied Child

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.

“50% of children reported cold temperatures where the children describe their lips becoming chapped, bodies trembling, and/or becoming sick with a fever or cold,” reads the AI Justice complaint, citing the following examples:

  • N.T.M., 13, asked to be moved because she was so cold in her cell that her skin went purple, and her lips were so dry they cracked and bled.
  • K.P.R., 9, reported feeling so cold his “bones hurt.”
  • D.C.L., 16, reports being so cold he trembled. He said he did not have a sweater and all they were given were mylar blankets that often broke. When they tried to grab another blanket, the officers would yell at them. He stated he felt desperate to get out of the cold.
  • A.B.B., 17, echoed the stories of many when she reported that she was very cold during her time in CBP custody and that the mylar blanket provided was not enough to keep warm.

— 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, Conditions in Custody

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

Victim Classification: Female, Unaccompanied Child

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 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 account of “E.C.C.,” a 13-year-old child “who, for nine days, was detained in a CBP facility in a small room with thirty-five to forty other people, most of whom were adults and none of whom ever received a toothbrush or soap.”

— 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.

Sector(s): Border-Wide

Agency(ies): CBP

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

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

Victim Classification: Unaccompanied Child

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.

“5% of children reported being detained with adults,” reads AI Justice’s complaint. “J.H.M. stated that he was in the holding cell with four adult men, two of which harassed the 9-year-old telling him that he was his father and another, his uncle because one of them had impregnated his mom. J.H.M was distraught and tried to tell CBP officers what was happening to him but still he remained in the cell with adults. He reports lying on the floor and crying.”

— 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, Conditions in Custody, Endangerment

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

Victim Classification: Unaccompanied Child