Immigrant children held at a Virginia facility say they were stripped, handcuffed to chairs, beaten, and left to shiver, naked, in solitary confinement, Business Insider is reporting. Meanwhile, a child psychologist who interviewed the kids said she observed bruises and broken bones, which the kids blamed on the guards.
As Time reports, the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center near Staunton, Virginia, is one of three facilities with contracts from the federal government to house immigrant youth, separated from their parents, who were too violent or abusive to be allowed to stay in less-secure facilities. Many of the kids have been suspected of having gang ties, specifically to the violent Central American MS-13 gang, which Donald Trump has pointed to as a need for tighter border security.
The revelations about the treatment youth at the facility endured have been documented in a federal lawsuit against the facility which claims that immigrants detained there “are subjected to unconstitutional conditions that shock the conscience, including violence by staff, abusive and excessive use of seclusion and restraints, and the denial of necessary mental health care.”
At that facility, according to sworn statements from some of the youth who have been through that facility, they were essentially tortured.
According to Business Insider, one Honduran immigrant says that he would often be stripped naked and tied to a chair.
“Whenever they used to restrain me and put me in the chair, they would handcuff me. Strapped me down all the way, from your feet all the way to your chest, you couldn’t really move…. They have total control over you. They also put a bag over your head. It has little holes; you can see through it. But you feel suffocated with the bag on.”
Similarly, a child-development specialist who worked with kids in the facility said that she often saw the kids with bruises and broken bones, injuries which the youth blamed on the guards. She spoke on condition of anonymity.
As for the alleged gang connections, Kelsey Wong, a program director at the facility, said that accusations that the kids were involved with gangs often proved false.
“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.”
Similarly, a “top manager” from the facility, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that much of the violent behavior from the kids came not from gang activity, but from mental health issues resulting from trauma they endured in their home countries.