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Complaint: Border Patrol officers abuse underage migrants

PHOENIX -- A complaint filed by several organizations alleges U.S. border officers have been abusing illegal immigrants for at least 10 years.

Customs and Border Patrol agents are accused of abusing children while in their custody, according to a complaint filed by the National Immigrant Justice Center, the Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, Americans for Immigrant Justice, Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project and ACLU Border Litigation Project.

The purported abuse has been on-going for at least a decade, with the most recent documented incident occurring within the past three months. Attorneys for the organizations say the abuse was reported but no action was ever taken.

The complaint states one in four children reported some form of physical abuse, including sexual assault, beatings and the use of stress positions by CBP officials. More than half of these children reported various forms of verbal abuse -- including racially and sexually-charged comments and death threats.

More than half reported the denial of medical care, including two young mothers whose infant children became sick while detained in freezing temperatures, and another child whose asthma medication was confiscated while she suffered multiple asthma attacks.

The complaint also alleged children didn't have adequate food, mothers with infants were denied milk, denied water or bathing facilities. The conditions of some of these holding facilities have been described as deplorable and kept at near-freezing temperatures while the children were not provided beds or blankets.

"This complaint is further proof that CBP is an agency in need of massive reform, this should be the final straw," said ACLU Attorney James Lyall. "These children's stories are horrific, but it's just the latest indication that CBP is out of control."

A victim's account, which is included in the public copy of the complaint and summarized to protect the young girl paints a startling picture.

After CBP transferred 15-year-old K.M. to ORR custody, K.M. reported that one of the girls with whom she was detained was covered in bruises on her chest and face. The girl initially claimed her injuries had occurred when she fell. When pressed, however, the girl admitted that when she was apprehended, a CBP official took her into a cave and raped her. The girl said that she was afraid to come forward or make a complaint because the CBP official threatened her.

Read the full complaint.

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About the Author


Sandra moved from the small border city of Yuma, Arizona to study Broadcast Journalism at Arizona State University in the late 90s. Since graduating, she's worked at several local TV stations including Univision, Fox 10 and 3TV.

Working at KTAR, has allowed her the opportunity to cover major national news events, including Presidential visits, the Tucson Tragedy and the Wallow fire.

When Sandra isn't covering breaking news or behind a microphone in the studio, she's probably at home with her best friend Mark and her two dogs, Lily and Lola.

Sandra enjoys cooking and admits to enjoying "really bad" reality T.V. She also enjoys spending quiet time at home with people she loves, playing a little poker and traveling.

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