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Detained immigrant children line up in the cafeteria at the Karnes County Residential Center, a temporary home for immigrant women and children detained at the border. Eric Gay/AP
Detained immigrant children line up in the cafeteria at the Karnes County Residential Center, a temporary home for immigrant women and children detained at the border. Eric Gay/AP

Teenagers are victims of sexual abuse in immigrant detention centers

A worker has been accused of sexually abusing eight children in a migrant shelter in Arizona. As a result, investigations have found that detention centers…

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No, detention centers for underage immigrants are not a "summer camp" as government officials want us to believe.

Since the policy of "zero tolerance" on the border was put into effect, more than 2,500 children have been separated from their parents and confined to cage-like detention centers.

Many of them are minors - between 2 and 17 years old - who are being processed as "unaccompanied minors," even when they crossed the border in the care of their parents.

These young people have joined the hundreds of children who have been crossing the border for years without legal guardians, fleeing violence in their countries of origin and surviving the arduous journey of crossing the border, hoping to meet with relatives or someone familiar on the other side.

There are no words to describe what happens when they are apprehended.

Between physical and verbal abuse, 24-hour confinement with artificial light, hunger, cold and the desperation of not knowing if they will see their families again or if they will be deported along with their parents, these children face another kind of hell inside the detention centers.

The latest finding of this circumstance was made public by ProPublica on Thursday. The media outlet reported that an officer of the company Southwest Key was accused of 11 counts of sexual crimes after having allegedly harassed and abused eight immigrant children without guardians over a period of nearly one year in one of the company's facilities in Mesa, Arizona.

The defendant has been identified as Levian D. Pacheco, 25 years old and HIV positive, whose behavior was described by the children as an explicit case of sexual abuse, carried out between the months of August 2016 and July 2017, according to the court documents in the report.

In addition to the serious case, ProPublica has also reported that the Southwest Key company had previously been cited by the Arizona Department of Health Services for "not performing background checks" on its staff before being hired, including fingerprints checks "to ensure that employees didn’t commit sexual and other crimes."

While Trump administration officials have repeatedly claimed that shelters for immigrant children are safe "and even fun," several reports have surfaced in recent days that expose cases of sexual abuse at other facilities in Arizona cities such as Tucson, Phoenix and Glendale, as well as cases dating back more than five years in which abuse is constantly being carried out in detention centers, as the American Civil Liberties Union reported.

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