The U.S. government has held some migrant children in “secure” facilities resembling jails for more than six months before reuniting them with their family, according to a new report obtained by CBS News.
Of the roughly 4,000 migrant children in U.S. custody, the majority are placed in “non-secure” facilities that have fewer restrictions than the “secure” facilities. Staff at these facilities are responsible for finding and checking people who can take care of the child outside custody, usually a member of their family.
Attorneys from the National Center for You Law joined with Stanford University researchers to analyze data given to them under the Flores Agreement that dictates how the government handles child migrants in U.S. custody. They then compiled that data, along with testimonials from children, and delivered the report to members of Congress.
"I sleep in a locked jail cell. The beds are thin mattresses on top of a block of cement and we don't get pillows. I have a make-shift pillow that I make out of my sweaters or other clothes," wrote one child who is in a secure facility. "The guards also push us, pepper spray us, and place the handcuffs excessively tight – to the point that wrist injuries frequently occur."
"Based on our experience, it is the most vulnerable children – those with the most extensive trauma histories –that end up in restrictive placements," said Neha Desai, the Director of Immigration at the National Center for Youth Law. "Given everything we know about the grave harms associated with prolonged detention, we find the data around the average length of detention for children in restrictive facilities to be profoundly concerning."
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