BY: OFONIME IDIONG
Florida Democratic Representative Ted Deutch's office, released documents by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that alleged incidents of sexual abuse and harassment of migrant children in U.S. custody.
Almost 5,000 complaints were filed over the past four years, dating back to October 2014 during the Obama administration, however most of the alleged abuse reportedly occurred during Trump's administration.
According to the documents, from October of 2014 to July of 2018 The Office of Refugee Resettlement, a part of the HHS that cares for unaccompanied minors received a total of 4,556 allegations 1,303 of which were reported to the Justice Department.
Of the 1,303 cases reported to the Department of Justice 178 were accusations against HHS staff members, while the rest were reports of minors assaulting other minors.
Jonathan H. Hayes, the acting director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, told the New York Times "The safety of minors is our top concernâ€¦ none of the allegations involved O.R.R. federal staff. These allegations were all fully investigated and remedial action was taken where appropriate."
Jonathan White an official for HHS who has overseen the detention centers for children says that none of the allegations involved HHS staff members either, and that all reports of sexual misconduct were fully reported and that all reports deemed legitimate are sent to the Department of Justice.
The documents were first reported by Axios, an online news and information source, after being made public by Deutch's office. The documents were released ahead of the House Judiciary Committee about the Trump administration policy of family separation at the border.
Trump's "Zero Tolerance" policy first put into place last spring has resulted in more than 2,700 children being separated from their families at the border. Deutch released the documents and linked them to the "Zero Tolerance" policy.
For a majority of the years covered in the report, the number of allegations stayed the same from month to month and only skyrocketed after the Trump administration enacted the new policy. From March of 2018 to July 2018 the agency received 859 complaints, and out of that 342 were reported to the Department of Justice.
According to the Guardian; officials said "allegations haven't been substantiated and are defending the care they provide to immigrant children."