Of Course There's Sexual Abuse In Trump's Concentration Camps. Did You Assume There Wasn't?
In case anyone had any illusions that overcrowding and mistreatment of migrant kids in Border Patrol stations was purely a Texas thing, NBC News reported last night on terrible conditions -- including one accusation of sexual assault by a Border Patrol officer -- at the Border Patrol facility in Yuma, Arizona. The "significant incident reports" were filed by case managers with the US Department of Health and Human Services who interviewed children after they were transferred from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) for longer-term storage in HHS's also-overcrowded system of shelters.
The nearly 30 reports reviewed by NBC News "repeatedly described poor conditions that are not pure byproducts of overcrowding," such as kids not being allowed to shower, kids having to sleep outside or on concrete floors in very cold cells -- maybe with a tinfoil Mylar blanket, maybe not -- and what the hell, just for fun, they're also setting dinner time for young children for well after what should be bedtime:
One child reported "sometimes going to bed hungry because dinner was usually served sometime after 9 p.m. and by that time she was already asleep," according to the documents.
All children who gave accounts to case managers had been held at the border station longer than the 72 hours permitted by law.
The reports of overcrowding and terrible food are similar to conditions documented in two reports by Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General in May and June at Border Patrol stations in Texas, as well as reports by attorneys monitoring CBP's compliance with federal law governing conditions for detained migrant kids. The HHS significant incident reports were filed between April and June of this year, once again giving the lie to Trump administration claims that reports of poor conditions were unsubstantiated.
The nice folks at the Yuma border station really seem dedicated to treating the kids with cruelty above and beyond just overcrowding and bad sanitation, however, adding abuse on top of the crowded conditions -- which, we keep reminding y'all, are by design, not merely the result of increased border crossings. How about a little collective punishment, for instance? One 16-year-old Guatemalan boy, and others being held with him, complained about the water and food they were given (a common complaint at CBP pens is that the water reeks of chlorine). So the guards got their revenge, removing all the mats from the cell and making the kids sleep on the concrete floors.
That kind of punishment was also recorded by the lawyers who spoke to kids detained at the Clint, Texas facility. Warren Binford, who directs the clinical law program at Willamette University, told the New Yorker that when six girls at Clint were discovered to have head lice, they were given two lice combs to share (yes, really). But one of the combs got lost, so the CBP staff got mad and took away sleeping mats and blankets from all 25 girls in the cell, and told them they'd have to sleep on the floor.
Such lessons got through: Fear of punishment kept kids in Yuma from asking for even the least bit of help.
[C]hildren described being scared of the officers and said the officers would get angry if they asked for anything. One child wore soiled underwear for the 10 days he was in the border station because he was afraid to ask the officers for a clean pair, according to one of the reports. Another, a 15-year-old girl from Guatemala, described the food as "gross and cold most of the time."
Then again, none of this was recorded on video as it occurred, so get ready for the Usual Suspects to insist it's all made up -- maybe George Soros coaches every single kid picked up by CBP and taken from their parents!
Then there's the 15-year-old girl who told of being groped by a laughing Border Patrol agent in front of other immigrants. She
described a large, bearded officer putting his hands inside her bra, pulling down her underwear and groping her as part of what was meant to be a routine pat down in front of other immigrants and officers.
The girl said "she felt embarrassed as the officer was speaking in English to other officers and laughing" during the entire process, according to a report of her account.
That incident, at least, got someone's attention at DHS -- or perhaps the NBC News reporters' requests for comment did.
In a statement about the Yuma allegations, a CBP spokesperson said, "U.S. Customs and Border Protection treats those in our custody with dignity and respect and provides multiple avenues to report any allegations of misconduct. ... The allegations do not align with common practice at our facilities and will be fully investigated. It's important to note that the allegation of sexual assault is already under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General."
Keep in mind that these are only the reports that have so far been acquired by the media. Reporter Julia Ainsley said last night on MSNBC's "Last Word" that the reports she and colleague Jacob Soboroff had seen were only "the tip of the iceberg" and that there were many more significant incident reports from Yuma yet to be revealed. At least, we suppose, until the Freedom of Information Act is repealed by executive order.
If you prefer your immigration horrors in an audiovisual format, here's Rachel Maddow's story from Tuesday. While on the air with Maddow, Soboroff finally got that statement from CBP saying the sexual assault allegation is now under investigation. We should also note that Maddow reads from a broader range of the incident reports than are excerpted in the NBC News story, and (trigger warning) reads the verbatim details of the girl's account of being groped.
Migrant Children Describe Sex Assault, Retaliation By Border Agents | Rachel Maddow | MSNBC www.youtube.com
In a related update, the Washington Post notes that the team of lawyers who spoke to the kids at Clint filed reports late last month with U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee, seeking emergency inspections of Border Patrol facilities holding kids.
In a June 28 order, Gee ordered the federal government and attorneys for the children to work with an independent monitor to develop a plan to remedy the conditions at the detention facilities. In her three-page order, Gee appeared irked that the government did not already have a plan, given the Flores Settlement Agreement has been in place for two decades.
"If 22 years has not been sufficient time for Defendants to refine that plan in a manner consistent with their 'concern for the vulnerability of minors' and their obligation to maintain facilities that are consistently 'safe and sanitary,' it is imperative," Gee wrote, that they make a plan right now.
The parties are expected to file a report on their progress by Friday.
Friday? That's like two years from now in Trump Time. We'll try to keep you updated, assuming we haven't gone to war with Great Britain by then.
Yr Wonkette is entirely supported by reader donations. Please send us money and we'll help you stay afloat in this sea of madness.
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.