Young immigrants allege abuse at detention center (which started during the Obama administration)

Ed mentioned this in an update but it deserves your full attention. The Associated Press ran a story today about allegations of abuse against young immigrants. The allegations highlighted in paragraphs 2-4 of the story are shocking:


Multiple detainees say the guards stripped them of their clothes and strapped them to chairs with bags placed over their heads.

“Whenever they used to restrain me and put me in the chair, they would handcuff me,” said a Honduran immigrant who was sent to the facility when he was 15 years old. “Strapped me down all the way, from your feet all the way to your chest, you couldn’t really move. … They have total control over you. They also put a bag over your head. It has little holes; you can see through it. But you feel suffocated with the bag on.”

In addition to the children’s first-hand, translated accounts in court filings, a former child-development specialist who worked inside the facility independently told The Associated Press this week that she saw kids there with bruises and broken bones they blamed on guards. She spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to publicly discuss the children’s cases.

The article then suggests a reason why this happened. To be clear these are paragraphs six and seven:

Many of the children were sent there after U.S. immigration authorities accused them of belonging to violent gangs, including MS-13. President Donald Trump has repeatedly cited gang activity as justification for his crackdown on illegal immigration.

Trump said Wednesday that “our Border Patrol agents and our ICE agents have done one great job” cracking down on MS-13 gang members. “We’re throwing them out by the thousands,” he said.


At this point, you can probably hear someone clucking loudly about what a bastard the president is for mistreating these kids. Eventually, you get to this revelation:

Most children held in the Shenandoah facility who were the focus of the abuse lawsuit were caught crossing the border illegally alone. They were not the children who have been separated from their families under the Trump administration’s recent policy and are now in the government’s care.

In other words, this has nothing to do with the child separation which followed a new zero-tolerance policy that was announced this April. In fact, it seems this might have been going on for a while:

The complaint filed by the nonprofit Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs recounts the story of an unnamed 17-year-old Mexican citizen apprehended at the southern border. The teen fled an abusive father and violence fueled by drug cartels to seek asylum in the United States in 2015.

After stops at facilities in Texas and New York, he was transferred to Shenandoah in April 2016 and diagnosed during an initial screening by a psychologist with three mental disorders, including depression. Besides weekly sessions speaking with a counselor, the lawsuit alleges the teen has received no further mental health treatment, such as medications that might help regulate his moods and behavior.

If you read the lawsuit, you find that the behavior of guards toward the 17-year-old has been bad since he arrived there, i.e. since long before Trump was president:


SVJC staff members have taunted and harassed Doe, on a daily basis, since shortly after he arrived there. They call him names such as “pendejo” (or “idiot” in Spanish) and “onion head,” and they will intentionally provoke him, such as by dropping his clean towel on the dirty floor in front of him.

Most of the allegations of abuse in the lawsuit aren’t tied to a specific date or even a year, but the impression is that this is an ongoing problem. We do learn that the 17-year-old started self-harming after he entered the US in 2015 and this behavior continued at Shenandoah:

Approximately six weeks after he arrived at SVJC, Doe first disclosed to Mr. Aleman that he had engaged in self-harm.

Prior to his arrival in the United States, Doe had not engaged in self-harm. He reports that he learned this behavior while in ORR custody.

Since he has been detained at SVJC, Doe has regularly engaged in self-harm by cutting his wrists with a piece of glass or plastic and occasionally by banging his head against the wall or floor.

Later in the lawsuit, we learn the staff was aware of this behavior and did nothing or actually mocked him for it:

SVJC staff are deliberately indifferent to the children’s serious mental health needs, as they are aware of the harm that Doe and others are causing themselves by cutting and other behaviors, and they disregard the excessive risk of future harm – namely, serious injury and possibly death – to the children’s health and safety if they do not receive appropriate treatment for these needs.

SVJC staff have told Doe, on multiple occasions, that they “don’t care” that he is cutting himself. Other youth have similarly been told, “Kill yourself already,” by SVJC staff when they have learned that the youth have engaged in cutting.


It certainly sounds as if the poor treatment this minor alleges has been happening since he arrived there in 2016 and continued through a change of administrations. So why does the AP prominently mention President Trump but never mention President Obama? It seems this is another case where no one in the media was upset so long as there was a Democrat in the White House. Now that Trump is president, he can be blamed for everything, including things that happened before he was elected.

Finally, here’s a clip from Morning Joe this morning in which the AP story gets discussed in terms of an “America First” policy, i.e. tying this to Trump, with no mention that the alleged abuse described in the lawsuit started before Trump’s election.

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David Strom 6:40 PM | February 29, 2024