End Abuses of Unaccompanied Children

Derechos Humanos Statement:  

End abuses of unaccompanied children

For Immediate release: 6/13/14

In recent weeks, the influx of unaccompanied immigrant children arriving to the United States has constantly been in news headlines. This ongoing humanitarian crisis highlights continuing   and longstanding problems with U.S. Immigration policies, and in particular, with U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Many unaccompanied minors arriving in the U.S. have already endured abuse and trauma. Many are escaping extreme poverty and violence, while others are hoping to reunite with mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. The journey from their hometowns, through Mexico, and across the border is extraordinarily dangerous. They flee to the U.S.  to survive. Once in our country, however, these children are all too often subject to additional abuse and violence at the hands of CBP agents, and our own immigration policies.

While families are separated, children in detention centers are facing appalling treatment by law enforcement officials. Mistreatment has ranged from verbal, physical, and sexual abuse as documented by the June 11th complaint against Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to the denial of adequate food and water. As illustrated by the leaked images of the CBP holding warehouse in Nogales, Arizona– the conditions that theses minors are experiencing are abominable. Unfortunately, this is not a recent phenomenon.

Our office continues to receive frantic phone calls from parents and other family members desperately trying to locate their children. For several days, during the week of June 5th, the Hotline, and other locating resources maintained by the Office of Refugee Resettlement Unaccompanied Children’s Services, were dysfunctional–leaving parents without the means to locate their children. This inefficient process only perpetuates the pain and trauma experienced by both parents and children as they desperately try to reunite.

The Coalicion de Derechos Humanos supports the complaint submitted on June 11, 2014 against DHS Oversight re Systemic Abuse of Unaccompanied Immigrant Children by CBP. The abuses filed in the complaint are not new; rather, these abuses have been documented for years, and are now exacerbated and finally exposed.  It should by now be evident that CBP does not have the capacity to protect and care for unaccompanied minors.

We refuse to stand idly by as these children are placed at risk in the hands of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. This humanitarian crisis requires a swift and thoughtful response to ensure the safety of all unaccompanied minors under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol. Although CBP leadership has announced that the June 11 complaint will be investigated, it is not a substitute for independent oversight-CBP has shown itself incapable of investigating itself, and much more far-reaching agency reforms are still needed.