U.S. Border Patrol agents have resorted to troubling tactics toward unaccompanied migrant children including abuse, neglect and harassment, a report about complaint records shows.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School published their findings Wednesday after gaining access to more than 30,000 pages of records pertaining to complaints filed between 2009 and 2014.
The report, titled “Neglect and Abuse of Unaccompanied Immigrant Children by U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” highlights systematic patterns of mistreatment toward the minors, who by law should be granted special protection. CBP says the accusations are “baseless.”
One 16-year-old filed a complaint alleging that a Border Patrol agent “threw him down and smashed his head into the ground with his boot,” according to the report. “The child also reported that as the same agent walked him to a Border Patrol vehicle, he told the child that he would ‘fuck [him] up’ if he tried to run away.”
Other accounts point to the use of kicking, pushing, tasering, yelling and verbal abuse. Some complaints documented sexual abuse, including the touching of young girls’ buttocks and private parts. In addition, detained children reported the denial of clean facilities as well as food, water and medical care.
The agency, the report added, didn’t properly investigate the complaints it received. Although the Department of Homeland Security completed an investigation after complaints first surfaced in 2014, the ACLU argued that the practices didn’t change in the aftermath.
CBP characterized the accusations as “unfounded and baseless.”
“The ‘report’ equates allegations with fact, flatly ignores a number of improvements made by CBP as well as oversight conducted by outside, independent agencies,” CBP spokesman Dan Hetlage said in a statement.
A 2014 surge in border crossings among minors, mainly from Central America, prompted the Obama administration to look for ways to speed up the deportation processes for children to confront the rising numbers.