A 15-year-old migrant girl says a border agent sexually assaulted her during what was supposed to be a routine pat down at a Yuma, Arizona facility.
First reported by NBC News, the allegation is one among dozens of reported incidents collected by government case managers accusing border patrol agents of assault, retaliation, and routine humiliation of migrant children.
The Honduran girl says a large, bearded officer lifted up her shirt and put his hands inside her bra. He also pulled down her pants and tugged at her underwear, telling her to spread her legs and arms as he groped her body. According to the incident report, this was done in full view of other border patrol agents. The girl reported she felt embarrassed “as the office[r] was speaking in English to other officers and laughing.”
Responding to the allegations, a CBP spokesperson told NBC News that the 15-year-old’s allegations—as well as several others concerning the Yuma camp—“do not align with common practice at our facilities and will be fully investigated.”
“It’s important to note that the allegation of sexual assault is already under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General,” the spokesperson added.
Congress recently passed a $4.6 billion border aid bill aimed at improving overcrowded facilities at the U.S.-Mexico border. But the sweep of allegations from the Yuma, Ariz., facility suggests that the problem goes beyond overcrowding and a lack of beds.
According to the reports obtained by NBC News, one 16-year-old kept in the camp said Customs and Border Protection agents punished him for complaining about the taste of the food and water by taking his mats away, forcing him to sleep on concrete.
Others were denied showers and phone calls, were made to sleep on concrete or outside, with only a Mylar blanket to cover them, and were not fed dinner until 9 p.m. (Unable to stay up that late, one child reported going to sleep hungry.)
In each of the reports filed, the children had been kept in the border camp well past the 72-hour window mandated by federal law.