Guards at a Virginia juvenile detention center that holds some young immigrants appear to be determined to re-enact Abu Ghraib, based on federal court filings. About half the kids detained at the center are undocumented immigrants who face radically worse treatment than the local kids who are the other half. The immigrant teens, some of them as young as 14, face beatings and being shackled naked for days at a time:
“When they couldn’t get one of the kids to calm down, the guards would put us in a chair — a safety chair, I don’t know what they call it — but they would just put us in there all day,” the teen said in a sworn statement. “This happened to me, and I saw it happen to others, too. It was excessive.”
A 15-year-old from Mexico held at Shenandoah for nine months also recounted being restrained with a bag over his head.
“They handcuffed me and put a white bag of some kind over my head,” he said, according to his sworn statement. “They took off all of my clothes and put me into a restraint chair, where they attached my hands and feet to the chair. They also put a strap across my chest. They left me naked and attached to that chair for two and a half days, including at night.”
Some of the immigrant teens were sent to the Virginia facility because they were suspected of gang activity. But guess what:
“The youth were being screened as gang-involved individuals. And then when they came into our care, and they were assessed by our clinical and case management staff ... they weren’t necessarily identified as gang-involved individuals,” said Kelsey Wong, a program director at the facility. She testified April 26 before a Senate subcommittee reviewing the treatment of immigrant children apprehended by the Homeland Security Department.
Instead, many are teenagers coping with trauma after fleeing violence in their countries of origin who now face abuse, violence and deprivation in a U.S. detention center after being falsely identified as gang members rather than offered treatment and support. The AP report couldn’t determine if any kids taken from their parents under the Trump administration’s family separation policy had been sent to this detention center (yet), but there’s no reason to believe these abuses are an isolated instance.