PHOENIX (CBS5) - A number of explicit and disheartening allegations are being made by immigrant rights organizations against U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents who are tasked with taking care of unaccompanied immigrant children who have crossed into the U.S. from Mexico.
The coalition of groups, including the ACLU and national Immigrant Justice Center, sent a scathing 25-page complaint to officials at the Department of Homeland Security.
"After completing a perilous journey to the United States, many are subjected to various forms of abuse, harassment and other harms at the hands of Border Patrol and CBP officials," the complaint states.
DHS has not responded to numerous inquiries, and Customs and Border Patrol has only responded to inquiries with a generic statement.
The complaint was filed on behalf of 116 immigrant children, some as young as 5 years old. Among the allegations:
- One in four children reported physical abuse
- Half reported verbal abuse, including racial and sexually explicit comments.
- More than 80 percent described being denied adequate food and water
While the complaint documents a host of issues dealing with treatment while in custody, several specific stories in the complaint stood out as especially egregious.
A 14-year-old boy reported that when "he was being taken to the airport, a CBP official told him and the other children that he hoped the children's plane would crash. The official made hand movements and noises to simulate a plane taking off and then crashing."
A 17-year old girl reported, "The only drinking water available came from the toilet tank in her holding cell."
A 15-year-old girl, "admitted that when she was apprehended, a CBP official took her into a cave and raped her."
Other stories deal with a young child being shocked with a stun gun and others, including pregnant teens, being handcuffed and shackled.
Some of the children reported money and personal belongings were confiscated by CBP officials and not returned.
"Given the increase in the number of kids, unaccompanied minors that are crossing the border, we wanted to draw attention to these persistent abuses that have been happening for many, many years, and we are calling on the U.S. government [to treat the children] with [the] dignity and respect and humanity they deserve," said Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona.