Immigrant Kids Say They Were Beaten While Handcuffed at Virginia Detention Center

Immigrant children as young as 14 say they were beaten while handcuffed, locked up in solitary confinement, and left naked in concrete cells at a juvenile detention center in Virginia. “Whenever they used to restrain me and put me in the chair, they would handcuff me,” said a Honduran immigrant who was sent to the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center when he was just 15. “Strapped me down all the way, from your feet all the way to your chest, you couldn’t really move... They have total control over you. They also put a bag over your head. It has little holes; you can see through it. But you feel suffocated with the bag on.”

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam asked for an investigation of the facility after news outlets reported the allegations Thursday. Many of the kids were reportedly sent to the facility after immigration authorities accused them of belonging to gangs, and most held in the facility who were the focus of the abuse lawsuit were caught crossing the border illegally alone. The accusers were not children who have been separated from their families under the Trump administration’s recent policy; but the AP said it was not immediately clear if immigrant children had been sent to the site since the Trump policy change in April. President Donald Trump has repeatedly cited gang activity as a reason for his hardline position on illegal immigration. A former child-development specialist who worked inside the facility said she saw kids there with bruises and broken bones they blamed on guards. The detention facility denied all allegations of physical abuse.