As hundreds of immigrant families await reunification amid the family separation crisis, new scrutiny on detention centers has revealed a host of additional horrors.
The Washington Post reported this week that a toddler died shortly after being released from Dilley South Texas Family Residential Center — a detention center in Dilley, Texas. A Houston-based immigration attorney alleged “negligent care” in a series of tweets on Tuesday. ICE officials say they have no record of an incident while a child was in custody and have no way to confirm reports without a name or record.
In a detention center in Mesa, Ariz., a worker has been charged with sexually abusing at least eight unaccompanied immigrant boys over nearly a year. Casa Kokopelli, where most of the abuses took place, was cited by the Arizona Department of Health Services in 2017 for not completing background checks on their employees to ensure employees hasn’t committed sex offenses.
A 6-year-old girl who was separated from her mother was also sexually abused in an Arizona detention center, immigrant rights activists. The Nation reports the girl was abused by a fellow detainee and was forced to sign a statement that said it was her responsibility to stay away from the abuser. The form, part of the facility’s intervention protocol, instructed her to maintain distance from the other youth involved and understood that “it is my responsibility to follow the safety plan.”
Immigrants have described the conditions in detention centers as “hieleras,” the Spanish word for ice boxes, and “perreras,” the Spanish word for dog pounds. In Laredo, Texas, a mother fleeing violence in Honduras with her two young sons said in a statement that they family was forced to sleep on the hard floor of the holding cell, clothes still wet from crossing the Rio Grande. Mothers also said they were given little to no food and are unable to produce enough breast milk to feed their children.
Harsh conditions and family separations in the detention centers have surfaced repeatedly in the past years. Detainees reported watching mothers separated from their children, put in separate cells and unable to touch them, trying to reach their children through the metal bars. Officials pulled the children away and yelled at the mothers for attempting to reach their children.
The administration is scheduled to include their plan for reuniting parents that have been deported or released in the U.S. with their children, who remain in U.S. custody, at a status conference is set for Friday.