Thousands of migrants in ICE custody have alleged sexual and physical abuse and harassment, according to data revealed by The New York Times. The publication obtained information from the Department of Homeland Security and found that over the past four years there have been at least 1,300 allegations of abuse from migrants who are detained in ICE custody between the fiscal years of 2013 to 2017.
In response to these allegations, ICE maintains that given how many migrants flow through their detainment centers, those numbers are relatively low. However, watchdog organizations believe that incidences of abuse is far, far higher than what is reported, largely because immigrants fleeing violence in their home countries are often fleeing persecution, don’t have access to lawyers, and are afraid that they will be deported if they do come forward with their abuse story.
Recent reports have also revealed that children in ICE custody are abused on a widespread level as well. At the 16 Southwest Key shelters in Texas, reports of abuse and neglect are exacerbated by the fact that they can now legally operate at 150 percent of their legal capacity.
According to CNN, in those shelters, state inspectors have found at least 246 “deficiencies” over the past three years, including children harming themselves; one child drank rubbing alcohol. Staff has been cited for being under the influence of alcohol, using physical force on the children in custody, keeping kids in rooms that aren’t air conditioned in July, and at least one citation for an “inappropriate” relationship between an officer and a child.
There are also reports of children urinating on themselves when not allowed to go to the bathroom as well as 23 citations for improper medical treatment, including giving children incorrect medications and failing to give kids their prescribed medications, and for withholding medical care. One child had to wait three days before seeing a doctor after he fractured his wrist.
While watchdogs have been keeping eye on allegations of abuse not only in ICE facilities where adults are in custody, others are eyeing the federal government as they move to reunite all migrant children in custody with their families by July 26. As of two days ago, the federal government had reunited 450 of those children over five years old, and have 2,000 left to reunite in the next three days. The previous deadline to reunite children below 5 with their families was only partially met, and about half of the children were noted as “ineligible” for reunification with their parents.