From 2009 to 2014, at least 214 complaints were filed against federal agents for abusing or mistreating migrant children. According to the Department of Homeland Security’s records, only one employee was disciplined as a result of a complaint.
The department’s records, which have alarmed advocates for migrants given the more aggressive approach to the treatment of minors at the border under the current administration, emerged as part of a federal lawsuit seeking the release of the names of the accused agents.
Last month, attorneys for DHS argued before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that disclosing the names of the federal agents would infringe on their right to privacy. A district judge had earlier ordered the department to make the names public.
The fact that only a single case of discipline apparently resulted from more than 200 complaints of child abuse clearly worried the district judge, John Tuchi, of Arizona, who ruled on the matter in the spring of 2018. In his order demanding the release of the names, Tuchi faulted DHS for failing to vigorously investigate claims of misconduct, stating that “completed investigations were almost nonexistent.”
DHS declined to comment for this story.
ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom based in New York. Sign up for ProPublica’s Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox as soon as they are published.