Bipartisan leaders call for investigation of immigrant abuse allegations

Multiple media outlet reports of abuse in detention centers led the Senate Judiciary Committee to ask federal investigators to look into the allegations. Immigrant families "deserve to be treated with basic human dignity and respect," two Senators on the committee wrote.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP, File
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R) of Iowa, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 24, 2018. The Republican chairman and top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee want federal investigators to examine charges that immigrants have suffered sexual, physical, and emotional abuse at two government agencies’ detention centers.

The bipartisan leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked federal investigators late Monday to examine allegations of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse of immigrants held at government detention facilities, saying the mistreatment may have been occurring since 2014 or earlier.

With President Trump already under fire for separating thousands of migrant children from their detained parents, the request for an investigation by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R) of Iowa, and Dianne Feinstein (D) of California, elevated yet another issue to the administration's list of immigration problems.

"These allegations of abuse are extremely disturbing and must be addressed," Senators Grassley and Feinstein wrote. "This is not a partisan issue as reporting suggests many have been occurring for years. Immigrant families and children kept in federal custody deserve to be treated with basic human dignity and respect and should never be subjected to these forms of abuse."

The letter, based on articles by The Associated Press and other news organizations, says the allegations suggest "a long-term pattern" of mistreatment. Those reports describe claims of abuse over the last few years.

The Judiciary committee has scheduled a hearing for Tuesday on Mr. Trump's administration's separation of thousands of migrant children from parents detained entering the United States without authorization. Trump abandoned that policy after he came under intense bipartisan criticism, but hundreds of children remain apart from their families, including more than 400 whose parents have been deported without them.

The senators want the inspectors general for the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services to investigate the abuse allegations immediately and to release any previous investigations into the charges. They also want the investigators to study "the adequacy of policies and procedures" used by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a branch of Homeland Security, and by Health and Human Services to prevent abuse.

The AP reported last month that children held at an immigration detention facility in Virginia said they were beaten while handcuffed, locked in solitary confinement, and left nude and cold in concrete cells.

A civil rights lawsuit has been filed alleging mistreatment at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in Roanoke, Va., from 2015 to 2018. The alleged victims, Hispanic youths held there for months or years, have submitted sworn statements in the case.

Lawyers for the facility have denied the alleged abuse. Many of the children have been accused by immigration officials of belonging to MS-13 and other violent gangs, an activity Trump has used to justify his "zero tolerance" policy of prosecuting immigrants caught entering the country without permission.

The senators' letter also cited a New York Times report this month about two female migrants who described sexual abuse at detention facilities in Texas and Pennsylvania. ICE has reported 1,310 cases of sexual abuse against detainees from 2013 to 2017, the report said.

A June report in The Dallas News described alleged sexual abuse at a detention center near Austin, Texas, in 2017, and The Arizona Republic reported alleged inappropriate contact involving a teenage boy in 2015 and a girl who accused a staffer of making suggestive comments in 2017 at facilities in Glendale and Tucson, Ariz. The lawmakers' letter cited those reports as well.

Last week, US District Judge Dana Sabraw commended the Trump administration for reuniting parents in its custody with their children while faulting it for leaving hundreds of families still apart and warning that a better system must be in place. Trump seized on the praise, tweeting Monday that "a highly respected Federal judge" had said that the "'Trump Administration gets great credit' for reuniting illegal families. Thank you, and please look at the previous administrations record - not good!"

Homeland Security spokeswoman Katie Waldman said agency officials perform their duties "professionally and humanely." She said the agency "is abiding by the intent and letter of law and maintains the highest standards care for individuals in our custody." She said its facilities "undergo constant unannounced inspections by outside groups, the Department's inspector general and court-ordered monitors."

Officials at Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to requests for comment emailed to their press office.

This story was reported by The Associated Press. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Bipartisan leaders call for investigation of immigrant abuse allegations
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today