Documents Reveal Horrific Abuse of Migrant Children by Border Patrol Agents

Internal government documents dating back to 2009 and obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago School of Law, detail horror stories of child abuse, physical and sexual assault, verbal abuse and medical negligence at the hands of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents. The details should be a national security concern, because border agents were already “monstrous” under Barack Obama, and under Donald Trump they have been unleashed and stand to endanger untold numbers:


In one complaint we obtained, a Border Patrol agent grabbed a girl he claimed was running away, handcuffed her to someone else and dragged them together along the ground, causing “two bruises on her neck, scratches to her shoulders and arms, and thorns in her head.” A 16-year-old recounted that a Border Patrol agent threw him down before he used his boot to smash his head into the ground.

Other children allege that agents assaulted them with their feet, fists, flashlights, and Tasers. In one case, an agent ran over a 17-year-old with a patrol vehicle and then got out and punched the child in the head and body. Often, children noted that other agents witnessed the abuse or saw the injuries but refused them medical attention. In one case, agents accused a pregnant minor of lying about the pain — which turned out to be labor contractions preceding a stillbirth.

The records, from the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, a DHS oversight agency, “show that the leadership at Customs and Border Protection were well aware of the allegations of unlawful child abuse—including people still now directing the agency—yet there is no indication that any individual official was ever held accountable for abuse,” the ACLU continues. Yet, this could be just a sliver of the abuse at the hands of government officials—the ACLU has yet to issue a report on the rest of the 30,000 documents spreading over three other agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Border Patrol—called the most “corrupt” federal law enforcement agency in the country—has, along with ICE, been a danger to the public, engaging in extortion, purposefully destroying jugs of water left for migrants in the desert, violating international agreements, and even killing. Those are the incidents we actually know about. The new trove of documents are revealing further reprehensible—and criminal—acts, including sexual abuse of children:

The abuse was also sexual. During an arrest in the desert in Phoenix, Arizona, an agent grabbed a child’s buttocks and only stopped when she screamed and another agent approached. In another incident, a 16-year-old girl reported that a Border Patrol agent forcefully spread her legs and touched her genitals so hard she screamed in pain.

The documents come as the federal government has made tearing babies and young children from the arms of immigrant parents at the U.S./Mexico border official policy, and has floated turning military bases into internment camps for detained migrant children. Just hours ago, a Border Patrol agent shot and killed an unarmed woman. It’s federal immigration agents, not immigrants, who are the danger to public safety.

“The federal government has failed to provide adequate safeguards and humane detention conditions for children in CBP custody,” the report said. “It has further failed to institute effective accountability mechanisms for government officers who abuse the vulnerable children entrusted to their care. These failures have allowed a culture of impunity to flourish within CBP, subjecting  immigrant children to conditions that are too often neglectful at best and sadistic at worst.”

“President Trump vowed to ‘unleash the agents to do their jobs,’” the ACLU tweeted. “Imagine the horror that entails.”

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close
alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.