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

VIDEO: Woman sent to hospital after motorcycle accident in Mission

RCMP are investigating an accident between a motorcycle and a van on Hurd Street.

Spratt Road residents want CLBC house shut down after ‘terrifying’ incident

Mission RCMP had to be called after resident left house, damaged neighbour’s property

Hikers alert after woman approached by suspicious man in Harrison Mills

The woman and her family were hiking in the wetlands between Rowena’s Inn and Sts’ailes First Nation

LETTER: Why is Jati Sidhu ashamed of his riding?

Lytton’s Christopher di Armani shares his dismay at the potential name change of the MP’s riding

Abbotsford man guilty of pilfering $36,000 from Mission gun shop

Former employee Tyson Gamberg processed 172 fraudulent refunds

Edmonton judge rules Omar Khadr’s sentence has expired

Eight-year sentence imposed in 2010 would have ended last October had Khadr remained in custody

B.C. river cleanup crew finds bag of discarded sex toys

Chilliwack volunteers stumble on unexpected find while removing 600 lbs of trash from riverway

Trudeau sells housing plan in visit to hot real estate market in B.C.

Trudeau said the budget contains measures to help first-time buyers

Norway opens probe into why cruise ship ventured into storm

The Viking Sky was headed for southern Norway when it had engine problems on Saturday afternoon

Crash threatens Vancouver shipyard’s schedule for new coast guard ships

The delivery of the vessel was already years overdue

Fired B.C. farmland commission chair backs NDP rule changes

Richard Bullock agrees with Lana Popham, ALC records don’t

Michael Dunahee’s disappearance remains the largest probe in Victoria police history

The four-year old Victoria boy went missing without a trace on March 24, 1991

Kamloops chamber of commerce director let go after controversial Facebook posts

Facebook account had derogatory comments about Muslims, Justin Trudeau

B.C. RCMP officer cleared after Taser incident seriously injures woman

Woman with knives refused to comply with orders therefore officer used appropriate level of force

Most Read