Migrant Children Accuse Arizona Border Agents of Sexual Assault and Retaliation

By Shani Saxon Jul 10, 2019

Accusations of abuse against detained migrant children are coming out of Arizona, NBC News reports. Nearly 30 statements from young people in the custody of United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) “include allegations of sexual assault and retaliation for protests.”

NBC gathered the children’s accounts from “‘significant incident reports’ prepared between April 10 and June 12, 2019, by case managers for the Department of Health and Human Services.”

In one statement, a 16-year-old boy from Guatemala says CBP agents in Yuma, Arizona, removed sleep mats from several cells as punishment after some of the children “complained about the taste of the water and food they were given.” They were left to sleep on concrete floors. 

A detained 15-year-old girl from Honduras said that a bearded officer pulled down her underwear, put his hands under her bra and groped her during a “routine” pat down in front of others. The girl said, “she felt embarrassed as the officer was speaking in English to other officers and laughing.”

A CBP spokesperson told NBC News: “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 statement continued, “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.”

The accounts referenced in the NBC News report were taken from children who were detained longer than the 72 hours allowed by the law.