Immigration Advocates File Complaints Protesting the Treatment of Children in Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Custody

For Immediate ReleaseContacts:
Jennifer Anzardo Valdes, Director, AI Justice’s Children’s Legal Program, janzardo@aijustice.orgMaite Garcia, Supervising Attorney, AI Justice’s Children’s Legal Program, mgarcia@aijustice.org

Miami, FL (April 7, 2022) – Yesterday, Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice) filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) detailing patterns of abuse and mistreatment of immigrant children in CBP custody at the southern border. The complaint was filed concurrently with federal complaints by other immigration advocacy organizations – Kids in Need of Defense (KIND), Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project (FIRRP), and Immigrant Defenders Law Center (ImmDef) – who represent unaccompanied noncitizen children across the country, from California to New York and Florida to Seattle, and witness similar patterns of mistreatment.

AI Justice found that in 2021, 70% of the children we interviewed reported experiencing conditions or abuse while in CBP custody in violation of the Flores Agreement. Children are suffering mistreatment in the form of excessive detention, verbal and physical abuse, deprivation of medical care, lack of sufficient food and water, subjection to unreasonably cold temperatures without access to blankets, family separation, and other human rights violations.

“AI Justice and other organizations have been reporting abuses and appalling treatment of immigrant children at the hands of CBP for years, yet nothing has changed,” said Jennifer Anzardo Valdes, Director of AI Justice’s Children’s Legal Program. “What we’re seeing is systemic abuse in CBP custody, regardless of who is in charge at the federal level. A little over a year ago, AI Justice released a report uplifting the voices of thousands of children who reported abuses that occurred in 2019. As detailed in yesterday’s complaint, we are still seeing the same inhumane conditions today. It is time that CBP be held accountable and held responsible for their actions.”

“This administration, like others before it, has fallen short on protecting the rights of children in CBP custody,” said Maite Garcia, Supervising Attorney at Americans for Immigrant Justice. “It is long overdue that our government live up to the promises in the Flores settlement agreement and the TVPRA and implement a system that is guided by the best interest of the children in their custody.”

With the Biden administration officially announcing the end of Title 42, finally taking lawful and humane action to welcome asylum seekers at the border, it’s vital that CBP prioritize ensuring safe and sanitary conditions for young immigrants. Together, AI Justice, KIND, the Florence Project, and ImmDef call on the government to find a trauma-informed and child-friendly system to welcome, screen, and ensure the safety of children arriving to the United States seeking protection.

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Americans for Immigrant Justice (AI Justice) is an award-winning non-profit law firm that fights for justice for immigrants through a combination of direct representation, impact litigation, advocacy and outreach. In Florida and on a national level, it champions the rights of unaccompanied immigrant children; advocates for survivors of trafficking and domestic violence; serves as a watchdog on immigration detention practices and policies; fights to keep families informed, empowered and together; and pursues redress on behalf of immigrant groups with particular and compelling claims to justice.