From 2014 to 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services received more than 4,500 allegations that unaccompanied minors—children without their parents—were sexually abused while in the custody of the United States government. In the same time period, the Department of Justice received more than 1,300 complaints of sexual abuse.
Though the majority of the complaints involved allegations of abuse by fellow minors, 178 complaints were made against adult staff.
Florida Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch addressed the internal documents at a House Judiciary Committee hearing centered on President Trump’s child separation policy.
Addressing the allegations against staff, Deutch said, “This works out on average to one sexual assault by HHS staff on unaccompanied minor per week.”
Deutch also commented on the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” border policy which has separated more than 2,700 migrant children from their families. He said, “Did people consider that when you went forward on the ‘zero tolerance policy’ that we’re moving forward on a policy that would put these kids at risk of sexual assaults? That’s the question.”
He explained, “I am deeply concerned with documents that have been turned over by HHS that record a high number of sexual assaults on unaccompanied children in the custody of the Office of Refugee and Resettlement. Together, these documents detail an environment of systemic sexual assaults by staff on unaccompanied children.”
An HHS spokesperson told Axios that they act “swiftly to investigate and respond” to allegations.