Mi­grants ac­cuse Yuma agents of abuse

NBC re­port de­tails com­plaints of sex­ual as­sault, other mis­con­duct

Yuma Sun - - FRONT PAGE - BY JOHN MARINELLI YUMA SUN STAFF WRITER

A re­port pub­lished Tues­day evening by NBC News out­lines ac­counts from mi­grant chil­dren of al­leged sex­ual as­sault and abuse by Bor­der Patrol agents while in cus­tody in Yuma.

The story, which also aired on “The Rachel Mad­dow Show” Tues­day, in­cludes the ac­count of a 15-year-old girl who said that a “large, bearded of­fi­cer” stuck his hands un­der her bra, pulled her un­der­wear down and groped her.

Other ac­counts from mi­grant chil­dren that were de­tailed de­scribed al­le­ga­tions of overcrowdi­ng, poor con­di­tions, and re­tal­i­a­tion from agents. The re­port out­lines the story of a 16-year-old boy who said that in re­sponse to chil­dren com­plain­ing about food and wa­ter, agents al­legedly took away their sleep­ing mats.

Ac­cord­ing to the story, NBC News re­porters learned of the mis­con­duct after a viewer tip, which led to ac­counts doc­u­mented by Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices case man­agers who dealt with the chil­dren after their re­lease from Im­mi­gra­tion and Cus­toms En­force­ment cus­tody. As of the pub­li­ca­tion of this ar­ti­cle, the Yuma Sun has not yet been able to in­de­pen­dently ver­ify th­ese ac­counts.

When reached for com­ment, Cus­toms and Bor­der Pro­tec­tion sent a pre­pared state­ment say­ing they treat “those in our cus­tody with dig­nity and re­spect” and pro­vide “mul­ti­ple av­enues to re­port any al­le­ga­tions of mis­con­duct.

“The al­le­ga­tions do not align with com­mon prac

tice at our fa­cil­i­ties and will be fully in­ves­ti­gated,” the state­ment read. “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 nearly 30 ac­counts that NBC News claimed to have re­viewed all stem from a pe­riod of time be­tween April 10 and June 12. Dur­ing those months, CBP re­sources in the Yuma Sec­tor were stretched thin due to the over­whelm­ing num­ber of asy­lum-seek­ers cross­ing the bor­der and be­ing taken into cus­tody, with some mi­grants hav­ing to be kept “par­tially” out­doors at one point, ac­cord­ing to a Yuma Sun re­port in June.

To ease the is­sue of overcrowdi­ng, the Yuma Sec­tor re­cently erected tem­po­rary tent fa­cil­i­ties for mi­grants ca­pa­ble of hold­ing around 500 peo­ple.

“This new fa­cil­ity is CBP’s com­mit­ment to bring­ing bet­ter con­di­tions and more hu­mane treat­ment to peo­ple that are taken into our cus­tody,” Chief Patrol Agent for the Yuma Bor­der Patrol Sec­tor An­thony Por­vaznik said dur­ing its un­veil­ing in late June.

While CBP sta­tions in Texas came un­der close scru­tiny in re­cent weeks by gov­ern­ment watch­dogs, Congress and the public, un­til now, the Yuma Sec­tor re­mained rel­a­tively un­scathed.

As Mad­dow noted dur­ing her Tues­day broad­cast, this NBC News re­port is the first time that a South­west­ern Ari­zona fa­cil­ity has been brought into the na­tional con­ver­sa­tion about mi­grant de­ten­tion.

Buy this photo at Yu­maSun.com PHOTO BY RANDY HOEFT/YUMA SUN

A VE­HI­CLE HEADED NORTH Wed­nes­day on Av­enue A trav­els past the U.S. Bor­der Patrol Sec­tor Head­quar­ters at 40325 W. 40th St.

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