A recently-released tranche of internal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) documents reveal dozens of incidents of abuse committed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents against immigrant children interned at detention centers across the United States.
One particularly shocking report alleges that ICE agents attempted to coax a 16-year-old into fighting with adults for their amusement.
That redacted complaint reads, in full:
On October 2, 2009, [the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL)] received three Significant Incident Reports (SIRs) from the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) reporting the following allegations: [a] 16 yr old [redacted] was transported to an ICE facility in Houston, TX, while awaiting deportation, an “ICE Officer tried to get him to fight adult detainees” and threatened to put him in the cell with those adults. The minor alleges he agreed to fight but nothing happened. He further alleged that facility officers regularly told him to “shut the fuck up,” and stated, “I’m going to beat your ass.” He alleges that he and others slept on a “freezing floor” with only one blanket each. He states he was provided only a frozen sandwich, which he could barely bite into.
A separate input box on the above complaint notes that DHS officials estimated the incident’s “Dollar Loss” at zero.
Here’s one from 2009 where a 16 yo kid alleges he was transferred to an ICE facility in Houston and told he had to fight the adults. pic.twitter.com/RoYvG4l8rI
— R. Andrew Free (@ImmCivilRights) December 17, 2019
On the same day in 2009, a 17-year-old unaccompanied minor “was transported to an ICE facility in Houston, TX, with two other minors for deportation purposes. While there eating [redacted] claims an officer ordered him to throw his food away.”
Another complaint, from July 2019, noted that “ORR reported a case of retaliation [by CBP agents] against children by removing mattresses after complaining about the taste of the water.”
The documents were obtained by immigration attorney R. Andrew Free and span some 92 pages of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) material from the DHS Office of Inspector General released Monday.
“These records, though demonstrably incomplete, are another data point in the systemic impunity that DHS officials enjoy when they’re accused of violating the rights of people in their care,” Free told Law&Crime. “In this case, the alleged victims were children. And that’s why no law enforcement agency in the country lets its untrained line officers be in charge of children. It’s highly questionable whether some of these officers could obtain and keep a daycare license with this kind of record.”
Free said that several additional inter-agency reports were held back by the government and that those unreleased reports were “horrific.”
“There’s an easy solution here: Congress can condition the funds it appropriates to DHS on providing the relevant committee staffers with video of alleged incidents whenever a report is made,” Free said.
Congressional Democrats largely ignored that advice on Tuesday. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Democratic leadership and New Democrat Coalition members passed an omnibus DHS funding bill with heavy Republican support that provides billions of dollars for DHS–including additional funding for President Donald Trump‘s signature vanity project, the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Most Hispanic Caucus and Progressive Caucus members voted against the bill.
Free later shared dozens of additional complaints obtained via FOIA request from one detention center spanning four months in 2017:
“I’ve shared these Complaints out of respect for the people who made them, because I believe their voices should be heard, and I see in these records that too often they were not,” Free said. “If you’re this far, thank you for opening space to hear. Now the [question] is what will you do about it?”
[image via Ethan Miller/Getty Images]
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