A 15-year-old girl from Honduras says she was sexually assaulted by a U.S. border agent, reports NBC News.
According to the report, the teenager “described a large, bearded officer putting his hands inside her bra, pulling down her underwear and groping her as part of what was meant to be a routine pat down in front of other immigrants and officers.”
The girl said “she felt embarrassed as the officer was speaking in English to other officers and laughing” during the entire process, according to a report of her account obtained by NBC News.
The report also detailed the poor treatment of migrant children at the hands of U.S. border agents in recent months.
According to dozens of accounts by children held in Arizona collected by government case managers, NBC News reports:
A 16-year-old Guatemalan boy held in Yuma, Arizona, said he and others in his cell complained about the taste of the water and food they were given. The Customs and Border Protection agents took the mats out of their cell in retaliation, forcing them to sleep on hard concrete.
A 17-year-old boy from Honduras said officers would scold detained children when they would get close to a window, and would sometimes call them “puto,” an offensive term in Spanish, while they were giving orders.
Earlier reports from investigators for the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General from the El Paso and Rio Grande Valley sectors in Texas detailed horrific conditions for children and other migrants held in overcrowded border stations where they were not given showers, a clean change of clothes or space to sleep. The reports from the Yuma CBP sector describe similar unsanitary and crowded conditions but go further by alleging abuse and other misconduct by CBP officers.
“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 allegations do not align with common practice at our facilities and will be fully investigated,” a CBP spokesperson said in a statement about the disturbing Yuma allegations. “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.”
One child reported “sometimes going to bed hungry because dinner was usually served sometime after 9 p.m. and by that time she was already asleep,” while a 17-year-old boy from Guatemala reported having to sleep outside even though his clothes were wet from having recently crossed a river, likely the Colorado River.
Once he was transferred inside, the conditions were not much better. “He shared that there was not always space on the floor as there were too many people in the room. He further shared that there would be room available when someone would stand up,” his report stated.
Many migrant kids reported that they were either not given a mattress, pillow or blanket to sleep with, or were just given a Mylar blanket instead.
Other children described being scared of the officers and said the officers would get angry if they asked for anything. One child wore soiled underwear for the 10 days he was in the border station because he was afraid to ask the officers for a clean pair, according to one of the reports. Another, a 15-year-old girl from Guatemala, described the food as “gross and cold most of the time.”
In a statement to NBC News, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, said, “These allegations are very concerning and need to be fully investigated. The president has denied any problems with these detention centers — despite multiple confirmed reports to the contrary — but it is the Trump administration’s own policies that have contributed to this humanitarian crisis and this lack of accountability.”