Three Separated Children Have Been Sexually Abused at U.S. Shelters, El Salvador Says

Three children from El Salvador who were separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border suffered sexual abuse at the hands of shelter workers responsible for their care, Salvadoran officials alleged.

Liduvina Magarin, the country's deputy foreign relations minister, made the claim August 30, saying the children, who are between the ages of 12 and 17, were still in U.S. custody at the time.

"They are sexual violations, sexual abuses, this is what this is about," Magarin told reporters, according to the Associated Press. The Salvadoran government said several children had been abused earlier this month, according to Reuters.

Magarin said that the Salvadoran government urged the Trump administration to reunite the children with their families immediately.

"May they leave the shelters as soon as possible, because it is there that they are the most vulnerable," she said, adding that the "psychological and emotional impact" of the alleged abuse "is forever."

Magarin said that once the children were reunited with their families, they would be offered psychological assistance. Officials have made lawyers available to the families, and Magarin said it was up to the families to decide whether to take legal action.

The deputy foreign relations minister said El Salvador has urged U.S. officials to respect due process, adding that "they have acted in accordance with the law."

These are not the first allegations to emerge of sexual abuse of children separated from their families at the border under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" practice.

Toward the end of July, news website ProPublica reported that police had received at least 125 reports since 2014 of sex offenses at shelters housing immigrant children.

Earlier this month, a Southwest Key detention facility worker was arrested for allegedly sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl in his care at a center in Arizona.

The Phoenix Police Department said the 14-year-old's roommate, who is also a minor, witnessed Fernando Magaz Negrete, 32, enter their bedroom at the Southwest Key detention facility in Glensdale and sexually assault the 14-year-old.

In another case that came to light last month, immigrant rights groups alleged that a 6-year-old girl was sexually abused by an older child in an immigration detention center after having been separated from her mother.

Documents obtained by The Nation detailed allegations that the girl had been abused at the Casa Glendale facility, near Phoenix, by an older child. The girl was made to sign a form that said she would maintain a distance from her abuser.

The Trump administration has faced backlash over its child separation policy, which saw about 2,500 children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

President Donald Trump rescinded the policy on June 20, weeks after the United Nations urged Washington to halt the practice, calling it a violation of children's rights.

The Health and Human Services department, which oversees the care of undocumented immigrant children in U.S. custody, did not immediately respond to a requestfor comment, nor did the Salvadoran government.