Thousands of Detained Immigrant Children Allege Sexual Abuse While in Custody

It’s become a well-documented fact that the number of immigrants being held in detention centers has grown under the Trump administration, and that includes children. In the time since the family separation policy was enacted, thousands of minors have been taken from their families – at least 3,000 of which were eventually left unaccounted for.

Details of these programs have slowly trickled out to the public over the past two years. This month, however, one of the most horrifying realities has come out: Thousands of immigrant children in government custody have reported being victims of sexual abuse.

This horrific situation came to light thanks to Florida Rep. Ted Deutch, who requested information from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice. After obtaining their reports, Rep. Deutch described the children’s treatment as “despicable” and “disgusting,” adding that he intends to make officials answer for what appears to be an incredible amount of sexual abuse committed against detained immigrant minors.

According to the report from Health and Human Services, between October 2014 and July 2018, 4,556 complaints of sexual assault or impropriety were documented. The Department of Justice reports 1,303 such complaints during this period, with the greatest number of complaints being made in Q2 2018.

What’s worth bearing in mind is that these figures pertain specifically to children in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, leaving untold numbers of children held by other agencies — such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement and their contractor facilities — unaccounted for here.

Before these particular reports became public, it was not a secret that immigrants detained by ICE were being abused. In fact, in one instance, a mother was sexually abused in the presence of her young child. This has led to an ongoing legal dispute, with ICE lawyers claiming that the encounter was legally consensual and is not a violation of federal laws – laws which prohibit any form of sexual contact between inmates and staff, consensual or otherwise.

The reports include details of the various complaints, with an overwhelming number of them being resolved in one of three particular ways: The complaint is dismissed, the staff member is reassigned away from the child in question or the staff member is fired.

In the rare instance when an investigation is conducted, it doesn’t appear that any criminal or civil action has been taken against alleged perpetrators of abuse. This casts great doubt on whether HHS and the DOJ are treating this issue with the gravity it demands.

Take Action!

Regardless of one’s views on undocumented immigration and how it should be handled, it’s completely unacceptable to treat vulnerable children of any origin or legal status in such a heinous manner.

Add your name to this Care2 petition to call on both the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Justice to address existing complaints in a more proactive manner by performing criminal investigations — and, when necessary, making arrests. Just as crucial, solutions must be implemented in order to ensure such abuse cannot happen in the first place.

No one deserves to be abused and ignored. Make your voice heard today and together we will achieve justice!

Concerned about an issue? Want to raise awareness about an injustice? Join your fellow Care2 users by learning how to make your own petition and make your voice heard today!


Photo Credit: Victoria Pickering/Flickr


Sabrina Degasperi
Sabrina D2 days ago

I've just signed the petition and I'm horrified by what happened.
I completely agree with Lindi Smith.

Lindi S
Lindi Smith4 days ago

UNACCEPTABLE and a shwack of pedos must absolutely be held accountable DAMN!! Horrific is putting it mildly. What if these were your own babies? Oh god I want to vomit.

silja s
silja s5 days ago

human trafficking conducted at the highest level of government. never forget your president "grab them by the pussy." so do not be shocked that this is america. I keep here the refrain from West Side Story " everything thing is good in America" My question is What will it take ??

Elaine W
Elaine W5 days ago

Shameful and disgusting. Do not vote for this horror. Get these monsters out of office.

Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan Hill5 days ago


Janis K
Janis K7 days ago


Chad Anderson
Chad A9 days ago


Petition signed.

Fran F
Fran F9 days ago

Signed and shared on March 10, 2019 to oppose this evil and illegal treatment of children.

Lisa M
Lisa M10 days ago


Lisa M
Lisa M10 days ago