Rep. Ted Deutch described the government's 135 migrant shelters as "an unsafe environment" at a Tuesday congressional hearing on the Trump administration's policy of separating migrant families, and produced some alarming stats to back up the claim. The Florida Democrat shared records showing the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is charged with caring for unaccompanied minors, received more than 4,500 allegations of sexual abuse and harassment between October 2014 and July 2018. Of those, 1,300 were serious enough to be referred to the FBI. The files overwhelmingly refer to allegations of abuse by other minors. But 178 complaints accuse staff members of inappropriate behavior ranging from touching children's genitals to watching them shower, reports NPR.
"This works out, on average, to one sexual assault by [HHS contractors] on an unaccompanied minor, per week," Deutch said before the House Judiciary Committee, per the BBC. "The details are horrific. And yet, this is the first we've heard of it," he later told CNN's Brooke Baldwin. "It only raises 1,000 other questions about what happened to the people who were investigated." Jonathan White, the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps commander, testified that "the vast majority of allegations prove to be unfounded when they are investigated." But "in many cases, the staff members were removed from duty and ultimately fired," Axios reports. ORR only began collecting reports on alleged sexual abuse in October 2014. Since then, "there have been more than 1,000 cases of alleged sexual assault per year," Deutch told Baldwin. (Read more migrants stories.)