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Flawed Investigations of Sexual Assaults in Children’s Immigrant Shelters

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Hundreds of police reports document allegations of sexual assaults in immigrant children’s shelters since the surge of unaccompanied minors from Central America began in 2014, according to a December 2018 report by ProPublica. The report, based on six months of research including internal documents obtained through public records requests, revealed “a largely hidden side of the shelters — one in which both staff and other residents sometimes acted as predators.” ProPublica noted that these shelters have received $4.5 billion in government funding for housing and other services.

ProPublica’s review of hundreds of police reports showed “again and again,” that “police were quickly — and with little investigation — closing the cases, often within days, or even hours.” Furthermore, the number of cases of sexual assault in shelters for immigrant children is likely greater than ProPublica could document, because of missing records from shelters in Texas, “where the largest number of immigrant children are held,” because state laws ban child abuse reports from being made public.

This topic has received some corporate news coverage, including reports by CBS News, USA Today and the New York Times. However, in contrast with ProPublica’s coverage, these reports have not highlighted shortcomings in investigations of alleged sexual abuse or the lack of support for survivors after the abuse.

Source: Michael Grabell, Topher Sanders, and Silvina Sterin Pensel, “In Immigrant Children’s Shelters, Sexual Assault Cases Are Open and Shut,” ProPublica, December 21, 2018, https://www.propublica.org/article/boystown-immigrant-childrens-shelter-sexual-assault.

Student Researchers: Austin Barcus, Maria Granados, Angel Palominos, Carina Ramirez (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (Sonoma State University)

Daniel Christof

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