"Beaten while handcuffed."
"Locked up for long periods in solitary confinement."
"Strapped...to chairs with bags placed over their heads."
These are among the many shocking allegations leveled against a Virginia detention facility by immigrant children as young as 14-years-old, the Associated Press reported on Thursday, citing the first-hand accounts and sworn statements of abuse victims detailed in federal court filings.
"Whenever they used to restrain me and put me in the chair, they would handcuff me," recounted one Honduran immigrant who was sent to the facility when he was 15-years-old. "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."
A child-development specialist who worked inside the facility told the AP that she saw children with broken bones and bruises that they said were caused by abuse from guards. It is unclear whether any of the children alleging rampant abuse at the facility were detained as a result of the Trump administration's so-called "zero tolerance" policy.
Responding to the AP's reporting in a tweet on Thursday, Freedom of the Press Foundation executive director Trevor Timm wrote simply, "This is outright torture."
Kelly Weill, a reporter for The Daily Beast, described the Virginia facility as "Abu Ghraib for eighth-graders."
— Kelly Weill (@KELLYWEILL) June 21, 2018
According to the AP, many of the immigrant children detained at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center—which is located in Staunton, Virginia—were arrested after federal immigration officials accused them of being gang members.
"But a top manager at the Shenandoah center said during a recent congressional hearing that the children did not appear to be gang members and were suffering from mental health issues resulting from trauma that happened in their home countries—problems the detention facility is ill-equipped to treat," AP reported.
The appalling allegations against the Virginia detention facility come as President Donald Trump continues to use dehumanizing language to describe immigrants fleeing violence in their home nations and conflate undocumented immigrants and those seeking asylum with violent gang members.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Trump accused Democrats of wanting undocumented immigrants to "infest" the U.S.
I’m still hung up on the sheer vileness of using the verb “infest” to refer to human beings.
It’s not overstating things to say that it springs from the darkest, most evil corners of human history.
It’s the way genocidaires talk about the people they are murdering.
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) June 21, 2018