Immigrant children locked up at a Virginia center say they were beaten, left naked in cells and strapped to chairs by guards.
Around 30 unaccompanied minors are being held at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center and have suffered from an abusive atmosphere, according to a federal court case filed on behalf of an unidentified undocumented 17-year-old boy from Mexico.
The boy spent time at a San Antonio center and in New York’s Mercy First Residential Treatment Center after being taken into custody at the border before being transferred to Virginia for alleged violent behavior.
What he allegedly found there were prison-like conditions with cells, no privacy from guards to use the bathroom, one hour of recreation time per day, racist taunts such as being called a “Mexican monkey,” physical hitting as well as harsh punishments.
“Several immigrant detainees have reported being stripped of their clothes, occasionally including their underwear,” the Virginia suit says, adding that the plaintiff was punished by being tied to a chair for hours and other children put in restraints for long periods of time.
One 15-year-old Honduran boy joining the suit said that he had been slammed against the ground and the wall after an argument over holding a door open, and restrained to a chair with a bag over his head.
Children at the center who say they have been abused are as young as 14 years old.
The suit also alleges that the mental health of the children, some of whom have suffered trauma in their native countries or on the road to the U.S., is not cared for despite diagnoses and suicide attempts.
“Kill yourself already,” one unidentified child was allegedly told by staff at Shenandoah.
In response to the suit, the center denied abuse, and said that children had only been restrained to keep them from hurting themselves, and that they were kept in their rooms without clothes or a mattress only after they had destroyed their clothes or bed.
The allegations against the Virginia center, filed in October, have come to light after attention on the affects of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy that split up children from their parents accused of breaking the law by entering the U.S. illegally.
Pictures of children in cages, some of the few released from the centers, shocked observers, leading Trump to change the policy with an order on Wednesday after originally saying that there was nothing he could do.
Allegations of abuse of immigrant children were also filed against the Shiloh Treatment Center in Texas, where staff reportedly used powerful psychotropic drugs to treat children who were not behaving with a “chemical straightjacket.”
The drugs were administered without parental approval even though it could have been available and raised the risk of diabetes and suicide for the young children, according to filings from April by the Center for Human Rights & Constitutional Law.
Carlos Holguin, a lawyer for the group, told the Daily News that nearly all of the children he had met had been medicated.