While Oregon is not a border state, it nonetheless is home to many migrant minors who may lose their parents to deportation. In some instances, a friend or family member may volunteer to take care of these children. Other times, the family tries to make arrangements for their children to join them in their home countries. However, minors often end up remaining in the United States and entering the foster care system.
CNN reports that the current administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy increased the number of migrant children separated from their parents. However, the sexual abuse of migrant and non-migrant children is not a recent phenomenon. From 2014 to 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services received over 4,500 claims of sexual abuse of unaccompanied minors. During the same time period, the Department of Justice received another 1,303 complaints.
When it comes specifically to migrant unaccompanied minors and staff relations, one source claims that there have been 154 reported incidents of sexual abuse in the past three years alone. The Office of Refugee and Resettlement are reportedly responsible for these children and denied the claims made regarding sexual abuse. A spokesperson for the agency instead alleged that these instances of sexual assault and abuse occurred between the unaccompanied minors and that most allegations proved to be false upon further investigation.
According to PBS, migrant children often face risks of molestation when placed in foster homes. In one specific case cited, a seven-year-old Guatemalan boy suffered molestation at the hands of other boys in the foster home he got placed in. He was the son of an environmental activist whose father fled the country when people from his village burned down his home. The father had hoped to seek asylum in the United States and was separated from his son during the process.
In many of the cases cited, the children regressed and became a shadow of themselves. Parents later reunited with their children often find they hardly recognize them. In 2018, the number of children ending up in OOR custody after crossing the border with or without other family members totaled 50,000. OOR says it is doing all it can to protect the children in its care.