The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona is part of a lawsuit filed in court today against the Department of Homeland Security over its "failure" to provide any records related to abuse and mistreatment of undocumented children while in the custody of Border Patrol and Customs and Border Protection agents, particularly during the huge influx of Central American unaccompanied children that happened last summer, where emergency shelters were set up including one in a Nogales Border Patrol facility.
In June 2014, the ACLU and some of its collaborators submitted a complaint to DHS on behalf of 116 unaccompanied children who said they were abused by Border Patrol agents, including being denied of hygiene supplies, bedding, food, water and medical care. In response to that complaint, the CBP was supposed to launch a full investigation on this, but in October the agency announced it would be "curtailing routine inspections," according to the ACLU.
In December, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act-backed request to get DHS records related to this alleged mistreatment of children, as well as information on how DHS agencies handle these allegations. DHS did not provide them with anything, according to the ACLU.
From the ACLU of Arizona press release:
Not only does the failure of DHS to produce the requested documents violate the Freedom of Information Act, it also impedes the ACLU’s efforts to educate the public on matters of pressing concern—namely, the mistreatment of children in Border Patrol custody.
There is also concern that the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which deals with, via several other agencies under its branch, relocating these children to relatives or guardians in the U.S., hasn't been consistently reporting allegations of abuse that involve the Border Patrol.
From the release:
ORR incident reports made public last year show that while shelter workers in Arizona and Texas generally reported abuse allegations to DHS, they did not always report those allegations to state child protection agencies.
The ACLU also filed for child protection documents in Arizona and Texas to look into any pertaining to the Border Patrol.
“This case is about the systemic failure of multiple institutions to protect some of the most vulnerable among us,” said ACLU of Arizona Staff Attorney James Lyall in a statement. “Under any reasonable definition, the neglect and mistreatment that these children experience in Border Patrol custody qualifies as child abuse, and federal officials and contractors are required to report that abuse under applicable child protection laws.”
From October 2013 to June of last year, more than 50,000 minors, mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, were apprehended while trying to cross into the U.S. They come for a variety of reasons, but poverty and violence, particularly gang violence, are what prominently pushes them to migrate. Emergency shelters were set up in Arizona, Texas and other states to house them while they could be relocated to other agencies, such as Southwest Key, which works to reunite these children with family members in the United States.
These emergency shelters were giant warehouses that were watched over by Border Patrol and CBP agents, and this is where many of these recent abuse allegations came to be.