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Abuse of immigrant children alleged in documents examined by Chicago law students

Alison Bowen, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Parenting News

Elbowing children in the stomach. Lifting a child by the neck. Kicking a child in the ribs.

These are all things the American Civil Liberties Union says immigrant children who crossed the border alone experienced while in custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The details were in a report released May 23 by the ACLU's Border Litigation Project in partnership with the University of Chicago Law School.

The ACLU examined 30,000 pages of documents that the group alleges revealed hundreds of incidents of abuse. The complaints were from 2009 to 2014 and recounted experiences in temporary detention centers along the border, from California through Texas, where children are held after being apprehended and before being transferred to longer-term centers or deported.

Claudia Flores, director of the University of Chicago's International Human Rights Clinic, said three law students pored through hundreds of pages of documents. The records detailed abuse allegations and complaint resolutions, including sexual abuse and physical abuse, like punching, kicking and Tasers being used against kids.

"Many of the doucments included repeated abuse," Flores said.

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The group accused federal officials of failing to investigate and follow up on allegations of abuse and neglect of immigrant children.

Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Daniel Hetlage said in a statement that the Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General completed an investigation, including 57 unannounced visits to 41 different locations, and found that the claims were unsubstantiated.

"The false accusations made by the ACLU against the previous administration are unfounded and baseless," he said.

Many children cross the border alone, often fleeing violence in Central America and sometimes hoping to join parents already in the U.S. President Donald Trump's administration has made reducing the flow of immigrants a priority, and he specifically has targeted this trend. Trump said last week that unaccompanied children might include gang members.

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