SAN DIEGO — Unaccompanied children arrested by U.S. border authorities are packed in frigid cells and sleep on hard floors without enough food or medical care, advocacy groups said in a complaint Wednesday that alleges widespread abuses amid a surge of illegal crossings by young immigrants from strife-torn Central American countries.
The Esperanza Immigrant Rights Project and four other groups produced 116 allegations of abuse of children who were in Customs and Border Protection custody. They said more than 80 percent received inadequate food and water, about half were denied medical care, and about one of every four was physically abused.
A 13-year-old boy said he was threatened by an official with a metal rod and was later sexually molested while in custody, a 14-year-old girl reported her asthma inhaler was confiscated, and a 14-year-old boy was unable to sleep for five days because the lights were always on. A 16-year-old boy said an official told him, "You are in my country now, and we are going to bury you in a hole."
The allegations described in the administrative complaint to the Department of Homeland Security were based on interviews with the children from around March to May. The authors said much of the alleged abuse occurred in the past year.
The authors urged the department to investigate the complaints and punish any wrongdoing. Customs and Border Protection said it does not tolerate misconduct.