Migrant child says she was sexually assaulted at Arizona border facility

Mats that migrant kids sleep on in Yuma, Arizona.
(Image credit: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Dozens of migrant children held at a border station in Yuma, Arizona, have shared with government case managers incidents of misconduct at the facility, including sexual assault and retaliation after kids spoke out against poor conditions, NBC News reports.

In one report obtained by NBC News, a 15-year-old girl from Honduras said during a pat down, a Customs and Border Protection agent groped her as he put his hands inside her bra and pulled down her underwear. He did this publicly, the girl said, and she felt "embarrassed as the officer was speaking in English to other officers and laughing."

A 16-year-old Guatemalan boy said after he complained about the taste of the water and food being served, agents took the mats out of his cell, and everyone was forced to sleep on the concrete floor. Another teenager, a 17-year-old boy from Guatemala, said kids would often get scolded for standing too close to a window, and agents would call them offensive names in Spanish.

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The children also said they were not offered showers, the lights were on all the time and they never knew what time it was, and dinnertime was 9 p.m.; one girl said she would go to bed hungry because she fell asleep before food was served. Under the law, migrant children cannot be held at border stations for more than 72 hours, but all of the kids were in Yuma for longer than that, NBC News reports. A Customs and Border Protection spokesman told NBC News the "allegations do not align with common practice at our facilities and will be fully investigated," and the sexual assault accusation "is under investigation."

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for TheWeek.com. Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and EW.com, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.