What is Our Country Doing to Undocumented Teens

As chaos continues to ensue at the border, gut wrenching stories of undocumented teens being taken into custody fills the news wire. Horror stories such as abuse, confinement and torture lend a glimpse into how we are treating innocent teens.

In the common wealth of Virginia there have been claims of teens being taken to juvenile detention centers where guards put bags over their heads while they were handcuffed and isolated while being beaten.

Kids who have been traumatized due to the separation from their families have been taken to psychiatric hospitals where they have been given psychotropic drugs while being pinned down.

A slew of lawsuits have been filed by the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, the Immigration Law Clinic and the National Center for Youth Law. They represent five kids from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras but argue that hundreds of immigrant children likely have similar cases.

They claim that the government is in violation of the fifth amendment as well as the Flores settlement. The Flores settlement was a 1997 ruling that limits the detention of immigrant kids and requires those who are kept in government custody to be held in the least restrictive setting possible.

The Flores settlement does allow minors to be kept in juvenile hall if they have committed a violent crime or have threatened violence. According to one of the attorneys on the lawsuit Holly Cooper, “Generally we see a child in a shelter care facility who for whatever reason acts out could be because of trauma.”

When a judge in California recently considered the cases of 29 immigrant children held in juvenile halls, 90 percent were found not dangerous.

Another facet of the case is that the Office of Refugee Resettlement requires families to provide documentation to prove they are safe and financially secure before returning their children to them. It is getting harder and harder to prove one is a relative of detained children and to meet all the requirements necessary for their reunion leaving many children stuck in dire situations.

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