A federal judge has ordered an independent monitor to evaluate conditions in border facilities that house immigrant children, amid allegations of unsafe conditions and rampant abuse.
U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles said there was a serious “disconnect” between the Trump administration’s own assessment of facilities in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and hundreds of pages of class action testimony detailing major problems, including abusive treatment, lack of adequate food and water, and unsanitary conditions.
“It seems like there continue to be persistent problems,” Judge Gee said. “I need to appoint an independent monitor to give me an objective viewpoint about what is going on at the facilities.”
Gee gave both sides until August 10 to agree on a proposed monitor. If they are unable to reach an agreement, both sides will give a suggestion to the judge and she will choose.
Hundreds of sworn affidavits from children and parents detail inhumane treatment at various stops from processing by Border Patrol agents to transportation to contractor-run facilities.
“There is no privacy. It is dirty and they don’t clean it,” a Guatemalan boy named Erick, said of his initial days in custody near the border. “The room is always cold. The guards took my sweater.” He added that there was only one bathroom, which a security camera was constantly pointed at it.
“When I told the CBP officer that my mother was killed, they made fun of me and said I was ‘weak.’ a boy named Victor said. He added that a guard told him, “This is it for you. You’re fucked,” after a friend didn’t pick up when Victor used his once-a-week call to try and make contact with them.
According to KTLA, the independent monitor ordered by Gee will be “confined to Customs and Border Protection detention facilities along the border in the Rio Grande valley in Texas. The monitor will also only assess accusations of ill treatment made to Judge Gee in a June 2017 motion.”
Also on Friday, one day after the court-ordered deadline to reunite families torn apart by the Trump administration’s child separation policy, ProPublica published a report describing more than 125 calls over the last five years reporting sex offenses at shelters that primarily serve immigrant children. The increased pressure on these facilities due to the Trump administration’s policies have made it harder for these centers to be adequately staffed — increasing the possibility of sexual abuse going unnoticed.
“If you’re a predator, it’s a gold mine,” Lisa Fortuna, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Boston Medical Center, told ProPublica. “You have full access and then you have kids that have already had this history of being victimized.”
A majority of the staff mentioned in the ProPublica report have been put on leave or convicted, but a number of shelters continue to employ staff with a documented history of sexual abuse.
The Trump administration was under a court order to reunite all separated families by Thursday, but as of Saturday, hundreds of children have not been reunited with their parents.