A young girl separated from her family by the Trump administration’s immigration policy has been sexually abused twice by an older child in a government-funded facility, according to a new report.
The Nation was informed of the abuse by immigrant-rights activists and the girl’s parents. The magazine also obtained detention center documents appearing to show that the girl was told to stay away from her abuser after the first incident.
The girl and her mother reportedly entered the United States to seek asylum from violence in Guatemala. They entered at an official checkpoint in El Paso, Texas, on May 24 and presented the Border Patrol with paperwork outlining their asylum claim. Two days later, government officials reportedly separated the girl, known only as D.L., and sent her to a shelter outside of Phoenix – more than 400 miles from the family’s point of entry. Though many such separations were conducted because parents were accused of illegal border-crossing, seeking asylum at an official checkpoint is not a criminal offense.
In early June, officials from the organization running the Phoenix facility called the girl’s father, himself an undocumented worker in California, to report that a boy had had inappropriate contact with his daughter and other girls. The father reportedly received assurances that the abuse would stop after the first incident. But he received a second call on June 22 to report that the same thing had happened again.
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The facility where the alleged abuse took place is administered by Southwest Key Programs, which runs 26 centers that house unaccompanied minors. Texas Monthly found state records showing hundreds of violations in Southwest Key facilities, including incidents of violence attributed to lax supervision.
D.L. and her parents have since been reunited, but the girl’s mother told The Nation that her daughter “behaved like she was still in detention. She wouldn’t touch me, hug me, or kiss me . . . She didn’t know I was her mom. She thought I was another social worker.” Similar signs of trauma have been observed in other children returned to parents in recent days and weeks.
The Trump administration had been ordered by courts to reunite the more than 2,000 families separated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ “Zero Tolerance” policy. The administration announced on Friday, the court’s most recent deadline, that it had only reunited roughly two-thirds of the families – meaning that about 650 children are still without their parents.