June 13 - As the Obama administration tries to cope with a surge in unaccompanied minors entering the country illegally, advocacy groups claim some of the children face abuse and neglect at customs holding centers. Mana Rabiee reports.
A U.S. government holding facility near Mexico. It's just one of the centers holding nearly 1,000 undocumented, unaccompanied minors. The children are among 47,000 young migrants who entered the U.S. illegally and alone since just October. The Department of Health and Human Services shot the video this month. The living conditions seen here are a world away from THIS… File photos of a similar facility in South Texas, released by Texas Congressman Henry Cuellar on Thursday. They show cramped and dank conditions the migrants, mostly children, have to endure. Migrant rights attorney Erika Pinheiro: (SOUNDBITE) (English) ERIKA PINHEIRO, DIRECTING ATTORNEY, ESPERANZA IMMIGRANT RIGHTS PROJECT, SAYING: "Unsanitary conditions, physical abuse, sexual abuse in some cases, verbal spats, things like that." A coalition of advocacy groups including the ACLU say migrant minors face abuse and neglect from agents at Customs and Border Protection, or CBP. They sent a scathing 25-page complaint this week to Homeland Security. Some of the children, they say, are as young as five. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ERIKA PINHEIRO, DIRECTING ATTORNEY, ESPERANZA IMMIGRANT RIGHTS PROJECT, SAYING: "We interview dozens of children per week. More than 200 children per month. I read every single interview that we do with the children. What we're seeing is an alarmingly high number of complaints of abuse in CBP facilities." Fifteen-year-old Karina came here illegally, and alone, from El Salvador. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) KARINA, 15-YEAR-OLD MIGRANT GIRL FROM EL SALVADOR, OBSCURELY LIT TO PROTECT HER IDENTITY, SAYING (ROUGH TRANSLATION): "My brother, he was hit on the leg. We were put in freezers and given food two times a day. And the food that we were given contained beans that had already gone bad. And I was given cold food. Doesn't really seem edible. Not something you'd give a child." Twelve-year-old William…also from El Salvador. (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) WILLIAM, 12-YEAR-OLD MIGRANT BOY FROM EL SALVADOR, OBSCURELY LIT TO PROTECT HIS IDENTITY, SAYING (ROUGH TRANSLATION): "The U.S. immigration officers, when we asked for water, we were not given water immediately. And we were placed in freezers. And only given food to eat twice a day." U.S. officials say they're treating the young migrants humanely. Their response to the migrant overflow, they say, is similar to how federal agencies handle natural disasters. They've allowed the media to tour one such facility at Naval Base Ventura County in California. It holds some 160 unaccompanied migrants between ages 13 and 17. The Obama administration hopes to send the minors to relatives across the country, until they can face immigration hearings. After which, some of children could face deportation. = Advocacy groups claim abuse, neglect at migrant detention centers for minors As the Obama administration tries to cope with a surge in unaccompanied minors entering the country illegally, advocacy groups claim some of the children face abuse and neglect at customs holding centers. Mana Rabiee reports.