A message from Color of Change:
Trump is doing everything in his power to distract from his responsibility for the inhumane practice of separating families at the border. He is even threatening to shut down the federal government if Congress refuses to fund a wall across the Mexico border. His antics will not distract us from the fact that he is pouring over $40 million into an immigrant youth housing facility that just made headlines for their long history of child abuse—including recently allowing a six-year-old girl to be repeatedly sexually abused. Southwest Key is denying the allegations and blaming it on fake news. Yet, uncovered internal documents prove the incident did happen and abuse is rampant at the facility.
A nonprofit caring for over 1,600 vulnerable children housed at 26 shelters in Arizona, California, and Texas must enforce practices and procedures that protect children, not neglect them. Trump’s hate-filled administration will not keep immigrant children safe. It’s up to us to protect them.
Tell the Arizona, California, and Texas Health and Human Services Department: Freeze Southwest Key funding until an investigation of child abuse is conducted and all involved staff are held accountable.
On May 24, a six-year-old girl, identified as D.L., arrived to the United States with her mother attempting to flee gang violence in their home country of Guatemala. Under the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy, D.L. was separated from her mother a few days after they arrived, taken to Southwest Key in Arizona where she suffered sexual abuse several times.
Scared and alone, the little girl had little to no contact with her parents. D.L’s father was contacted about the incident, but was only told basic facts of the case and was not able to communicate with his daughter or any staff involved. D.L.’s mother remained helpless as she was detained at a separate facility miles away. Fortunately, immigrant rights activists helped get D.L. and her mother released and reunited them with D.L.’s father in California. However, most children aren’t as lucky.
Immigrant children are OUR children too. Many immigrants from the Caribbean, including Haiti, frequently enter through the southern U.S-Mexico border. In fact, the leading plaintiffs in the well-known ACLU’s lawsuit against the Trump administration for its “zero tolerance” policy are a Congolese mother and daughter. Black immigrants continue to experience racial profiling by the police, compounded criminal charges and discriminatory sentencing, increasing their chances of later being detained and deported. It is clear that Trump’s America doesn’t care about any Black people, immigrant or not. That’s why it is our duty to fight for our safety.
Through the Freedom of Information Act, the ACLU identified hundreds of cases of abuse of immigrant children in US custody in the past five years. There have been reports of children being drugged, sexually molested, enduring torturous hot summers in unairconditioned rooms in Texas and more. Abuse, especially sexual abuse, is rampant in youth detention centers and will only continue to get worse under Trump’s anti-immigration era that shows no remorse for immigrant victims of injustice.
“There seems to be a level of cruel intent I’ve never seen before and a real indifference to the well-being of a child,”
— Holly Cooper, Immigration Law Clinic at University of California
The Department of Justice, under the leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, continues to dehumanize immigrants and has even proposed a rule that explicitly excludes immigration detention facilities from coverage under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), legislation designed to protect sexual violence in detention centers.6 With an agenda rooted in white supremacy, there is no federal government oversight to combat the surge of immigrant child abuse. The protection of our children lies in our hands.
Until justice is real,
Enchanta, Rashad, Arisha, Scott, Erika, Clarise, Marybeth, Siera, Anay, Kristen, Marena, Tamar and the rest of the Color Of Change team