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US rights groups report abuse of unaccompanied immigrant children

[JURIST] Unaccompanied immigrant children are facing abuse and mistreatment at the hands of US customs officials, according to a complaint [text, PDF] filed Wednesday by a group of human rights organizations. The National Immigrant Justice Center, Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project, Americans for Immigrant Justice, Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Border Litigation Project [advocacy websites] filed the complaint with the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] on behalf of more than 100 unaccompanied immigrant children. The complaint alleges that the children were subjected to physical and verbal abuse, denied adequate medical care, food and water, separated from family members and even shackled. The groups urged the DHS to conduct a thorough investigation, implement new policies and procedures and ensure that personnel receive proper training. The complaint also urged accountability for offending agents.

In November the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) [official website] issued [press release] a report [text, PDF] "Additional Actions Could Strengthen DHS Efforts to Address Sexual Abuse." The GAO report was initiated in part by government documents that found there were hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse [JURIST report] and assault in immigration detention over several years that were not properly investigated in compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) [text, PDF]. In 2012 the ACLU issued a complaint regarding abuse of power, excessive force, coercion and unlawful confiscation of property by Customs and Border Protection at ports of entry along the US-Mexico border. In 2011 the ACLU uncovered documents that found there were hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse and assault in immigration detention.

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