Originally published by The Huffington Post
Over the course of four days in June, Keylin says, U.S. Border Patrol guards would kick her body to keep her awake throughout the night. The 16-year-old, whose last name was redacted from court documents, told a lawyer that she would lie in fear on the cement floor of the Border Patrol station in Texas, surrounded by chain-link fence. She was separated from her mother, who had been held at gunpoint three times in Honduras, after they crossed the U.S. border.
According to a court filing, Keylin says the female guards also made girls “strip naked” in front of them before taking a shower, so they could leer at their bodies (her mother, Daise, corroborated her daughter’s account in a statement she gave to a lawyer). She adds that guards called the group of migrants “filthy” and “made fun of us.”
Keylin barely ate because she says the food was frozen, and she wasn’t given a toothbrush or toothpaste. Though she says the cells were so cold that she shivered and developed pain in her leg, the teen kept quiet. The guards said that anyone with an injury would be detained longer, and she couldn’t take that chance.
“I was very frightened and depressed the entire time,” Keylin told a lawyer on June 29, after she had been transferred to a family detention center and reunited with her mother. “I am still depressed. I also have nightmares and a lot of anxiety because of the separation.” At the time of their June 29 declaration, there was no plan for Keylin and her mother’s release.
HuffPost learned that the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law filed a report in a federal court in Los Angeles on Monday with more than 200 accounts from migrant children and their parents, detailing the horrific conditions they face in Border Patrol stations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement facilities and detention centers. The allegations, which HuffPost reviewed, include physical and verbal assault, untenable sleeping conditions and unsanitary drinking water.
Peter Schey, the executive director of the law center’s foundation, wrote in the case filing that roughly 90 percent of the testimony he and a team of about 100 lawyers collected is “shocking and atrocious” and that the children they’ve spoken to were “crying, trembling, hungry, thirsty, sleepless, sick, and terrified.”
“The treatment of these children amounts to torture,” Schey told HuffPost, adding that the situation has become worse under the Trump administration. “We see a policy of enforced hunger, enforced dehydration and enforced sleeplessness coupled with routine insults and physical assaults.”
ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) did not return HuffPost’s requests for comment.
Over the past two months, Schey and other lawyers have conducted interviews with migrant parents and children, some of whom were separated from one another under Trump’s zero tolerance policy, which stepped up the use of criminal prosecutions. The court filing does not include the current status of each child, and most said they were not told of their legal rights, including the right to be speedily released to a legal guardian or relative.
On July 27, the attorney will argue in federal court that the stations and facilities housing children are failing to meet the basic standards for hygiene, food, sleeping conditions and medical care, which are outlined in a 1997 court case called the Flores settlement.
Once migrants cross the border, they are put in short-term Border Patrol stations for a few days before being transferred to detention centers or shelters. While some kids have reported good conditions in longer-term shelters ― friendly staff, movie nights and field trips ― advocates and immigration experts have long considered Border Patrol facilities to be inhumane.
In May, Dixiana, whose last name is edited out along with those of all the other migrants interviewed in the court filing, says she was separated from her mother and taken to a Border Patrol station known as a “hielera” ― Spanish for “ice box” in reference to the cold temperature. The 10-year-old from Honduras told a lawyer her cell was so crowded that she and other girls had to sleep on the floor or while sitting up under bright lights.
She cried at the thought of never seeing her mother again, as did others in her cell.
For breakfast, Dixiana says a guard gave her a frozen ham sandwich but failed to bring her and her cellmates water. “The ham was black,” she told a lawyer. “I took one bite, but did not eat the rest because of the taste.” (One mother from Honduras said, “You could feel the ice when you bit into the sandwich.”)
After 12 hours, Dixiana was transferred to what she calls the “perrera”―Spanish for “dog house,” a reference to the chain-link fencing ― where she could see her mom in another cell. At one point when she was half asleep, Dixiana says a male officer kicked her awake while looking for a girl with a similar name to hers. Over the course of the next few days, she sat in a windowless cell with no idea if it was day or night, crying because she missed her mother.