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Lawsuit shows alleged 'inhumane' abuse of immigrants at juvenile detention center pre-dates Trump

A 16-year-old boy and his father, immigrants from Honduras, wait for assistance with travel plans after being released from detention through the 'catch and release' immigration policy at a Catholic Charities relief center on June 17 in McAllen, Texas. They said they were separated for about six days while in detention. (Loren Elliott/Getty Images)

Mainstream media has unearthed a story about allegedly brutal conditions at a U.S. juvenile detention center, just as President Donald Trump faces heavy criticism for children being separated from their parents as they try to illegally enter the U.S.

Where did this happen?

The allegations relate to a federal lawsuit over alleged conditions at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in Virginia.

An Associated Press story addresses the important issue, but also shows the problem existed well before the current uproar over conditions facing immigrants that are illegally entering the U.S.

A lawsuit outlined in the story illustrates a “growing and alarming national trend of punitive, racially discriminatory conditions of confinement and systematic indifference to the suffering of immigrant detainees, who often fare worse in civil detention than those serving criminal sentences.”

The problem goes back as far as 2007, according to a footnote in the lawsuit.

On Wednesday, Trump signed an executive order to keep families together if they enter the country illegally. But Trump also pledged to continue a “zero tolerance” stance for the practice.

As parents were processed, children were taken to juvenile holding centers. Minors crossing the border alone were also taken to the centers.

What was it like there?

Federal court filings allege that immigrant children as young as age 14 were handcuffed and locked up for long periods in solitary confinement at the center. Other times, the youths were allegedly “left nude and shivering on concrete floors,” The AP reported.

The court filing includes at least a half-dozen sworn statements from Latino teens. Some of them stayed at the facility for months or years, according to the report.

“Multiple detainees say the guards stripped them of their clothes and strapped them to chairs with bags placed over their heads,” the report states.

The lawsuit includes a scenario for a youth identified only as “John Doe.” In 2015, Doe failed to receive the necessary treatment for his mental health issues after entering the country.

On April 15, 2016, “Doe was transferred to SVJC, a ‘secure’ facility, allegedly due to his violent and threatening behavior. Doe has been continuously detained at SVJC since that time. Behaviors perceived to be threatening or violent by staff at each of these facilities were the direct result of untreated mental illness resulting from trauma experienced by Doe in his home country,” the lawsuit states.

The allegedly "inhumane" conditions at the center were also reported by WMRA-FM in December.

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