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 practice 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.