The government of El Salvador said that three Salvadoran children, ages 12 to 17, were victims of sex abuse at shelters run by the United States government in Arizona. They have asked U.S. officials to step up their efforts to return the children to their home country as quickly as possible.
As news of the sex abuse became public the Trump administration has been facing more pressure to speed up the reunification of immigrant families it separated at the Mexican border last spring.
Deputy Foreign Relations Minister Liduvina Magarin said in San Salvador on Thursday said, “May they leave the shelters as soon as possible, because it is there that they are the most vulnerable.”
The U.S. government has been heavily criticized for its horrible practice of taking children away from their families who come into the U.S. without proper documentation. In addition, government officials have been in and out of court all summer involved in lawsuits with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and facing the wrath of a federal judge. Both the judge and the ACLU believe that government agencies should have reunited the children with their families by now. But many children could not be located and on top of that many parents have been deported to their home countries without their children, who are still in detention in the United States.
More than 2,600 children were separated from their parents last spring before the Trump administration agreed to stop the practice. Over 2,000 children have since been reunited, but approximately 500 remain apart from their families more than a month after the deadline set by the judge, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw,
U.S Attorneys working for the government and ACLU attorneys working for the immigrant families have met several times with Sabraw and discussed how to accelerate the reunification process.
Magarin said that the three children were subject to “sexual violations and sexual abuses” although she refused to provide details.
She added that the government of El Salvador is ready with lawyers and psychologists to help the children and their families, adding: “The psychological and emotional impact is forever.”
Cesar Rios, director of the Salvadoran Migrant Institute, said,
“It’s unbelievable that children who were fleeing violence here were met in the United States with the worst violence a child could encounter.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement Friday that they need more information in order to investigate the sex abuse claims. They said that “without additional details, we are unable to confirm or deny these allegations took place at a facility overseen by the Office of Refugee Resettlement.”
The federal government enters into contracts with nonprofit groups who then operate the shelters for the separated children and for unaccompanied minors arriving at the U.S./Mexico border.