From left, U.S. Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection Chief Carla Provost, Acting Executive Associate Director on Immigration and Customs Enforcement Operations Nathalie R. Asher, Senior Adviser Department of Health and Human Services Scott Lloyd, U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Commander Jonathan White and Department of Justice Director of Executive Office for Immigration Review James McHenry are sworn-in Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Nearly 6,000 abuse complaints at U.S. migrant children shelters

The Department of Justice received 1,303 complaints, including 178 allegations of sexual abuse by adult staff

Thousands of accusations of sexual abuse and harassment of migrant children in government-funded shelters were made over the past four years, including scores directed against adult staff members, according to federal data released Tuesday.

The cases include allegations of inappropriate touching, staff members allegedly watching minors while they bathed and showing pornographic videos to minors. Some of the allegations included inappropriate conduct by minors in shelters against other minors, as well as by staff members.

Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., released the Health and Human Services Department data during a hearing on the Trump administration’s policy of family separations at the border. The data span both the Obama and Trump administrations. The figures were first reported by Axios.

From October 2014 to July 2018, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, a part of Health and Human Services, received 4,556 complaints. The Department of Justice received an additional 1,303 complaints, including 178 allegations of sexual abuse by adult staff.

READ MORE: New migrant caravan sets out from Honduras for U.S.

Health and Human Services officials said the vast majority of allegations weren’t substantiated, and they defended their care of children.

“We share the concern,” said Jonathan White, a Health and Human Services official who was in charge of the effort to reunify children with their parents, testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. “Any time a child is abused … is one time too many. We abide fully with the laws this Congress has passed, and we are very proud of our outstanding track record of full compliance including referring every allegation for investigation. The vast majority of investigations prove to be unsubstantiated.”

The Office of Refugee Resettlement manages the care of tens of thousands of migrant children. More than 2,700 children were separated from their parents over the summer at the border, and were placed in shelters. But most of the children in government custody crossed the border alone.

Children are placed in government custody until they can be released to sponsors, usually a parent or close relative, while awaiting immigration proceedings. The shelters are privately run under contracts with the government.

Youth are held for increasingly longer periods of time, currently about two months. As of the first week of February, more than 11,000 migrant toddlers, children and teens were in federal custody as unaccompanied minors, up from about 2,500 detained children three months after Trump took office. Tens of thousands of children cycle through the system each year.

Sexual abuse allegations are reported to federal law enforcement, though it’s not clear whether anyone was charged criminally. In many cases, staff members were suspended and eventually fired.

Deutch said the data were clearly alarming.

READ MORE: Trump backs use of ‘very safe’ tear gas on crowd of migrants

“Together, these documents detail an unsafe environment of sexual assaults by staff on unaccompanied minors,” he said.

Health and Human Services officials say all allegations must be reported to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, child protective services and the FBI, and all allegations involving adults to local law enforcement. The department must co-operate with all investigations.

Facilities must provide training to all staff, contractors and volunteers. Background checks are completed on potential employees, and facilities are prohibited from hiring anyone who has engaged in inappropriate sexual behaviour.

Colleen Long, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Indigenous youth connect with their culture at Gathering Our Voices workshops

Secluded Wellness Centre in Port Alberni hosted traditional wildcraft sessions

Illegal cannabis club in Port Alberni ticketed again

RCMP seize cannabis, issue fine for second time in five months

Motorists attempted CPR on victim in fatal Highway 4 crash west of Whiskey Creek

Witnesses say three vehicles involved in collision; man in 70s confirmed dead

Chef returns to North Island College to inspire young cooks

Tina Tang shares her culinary journey since graduating

Real-life tsunami threat in Port Alberni prompts evacuation updates

UBC study says some people didn’t recognize the emergency signal

Port Alberni Fire Department engages Indigenous youth in fire awareness

Workshop took place as part of Gathering Our Voices event in Port Alberni

Calgary captain has 3 points as Flames torch Canucks 3-1

Giordano leads way as Alberta side cracks 100-point plateau

Fire crews battle large blaze at Courtenay hostel

Courtenay Fire Chief Don Bardonnex said nobody was injured

1,300 cruise ship passengers rescued by helicopter amid storm off Norway’s coast

Rescue teams with helicopters and boats were sent to evacuate the cruise ship under extremely difficult circumstances

B.C. university to offer first graduate program on mindfulness in Canada

University of the Fraser Valley says the mostly-online program focuses on self-care and well being

Province announces $18.6 million for B.C. Search and Rescue

The funding, spread over three years, to pay for operations, equipment, and training

Late-season wave of the flu makes its round in B.C.

BC Centre for Disease Control reported 50 per cent jump in flu cases in first weeks of March

Tofino’s housing crisis causing some to seek shelter at the local hospital

Tofino’s housing crisis is pushing the town’s ‘hidden homeless’ population into the forefront.

Sentencing judge in Broncos crash calls for carnage on highways to end

Judge Inez Cardinal sentenced Jaskirat Singh Sidhu to eight years

Most Read