Trump Administration Allegedly Houses Immigrant Children in Clandestine Shelters

A recent report revealed that the Trump administration has been using at least five secret shelters in Arkansas, Florida, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Virginia to detain unaccompanied minors and has not disclosed the existence of such centers to the minors’ attorneys.

An investigation by Reveal, from The Center for Investigative Reporting, found that this practice may violate “the long-standing rules for the care of immigrant children.” At first, minors were detained in known shelters across the US, but they were transferred to concealed places that allegedly provide youth with “mental and behavioral challenges.” The Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the agency in charge of unaccompanied minors, did not reveal the new locations to the public, the report found.

The federal government’s actions may violate the Flores Settlement Agreement, a 1997 accord that established how unaccompanied children should be treated if detained and urges their immediate release. It is believed that ORR is still retaining information about other undisclosed locations.

The ORR did not respond to Reveal’s requests for comment at the time of publication. Robert Carey, who led ORR during the last two years of the Obama administration, said if the use of clandestine shelters “was happening, it was something that I was not aware of.” The investigation found some arrangements between ORR and for-profit institutions that had offered subpar services. A December 2017 lawsuit cited ongoing sexual abuse inside a facility run by Acadia Healthcare, a NASDAQ-listed company that operates 50 facilities in 23 states and Puerto Rico.

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said the arrangements between the federal agency and for-profit institutions were disturbing.

“Imagine being a child in a strange country, hundreds or thousands of miles from where you grew up, surrounded by people who may not speak your language. You would be incredibly vulnerable — which is exactly why ORR is supposed to follow strict regulations governing where these children can be held and what child welfare standards must be met,” he told Reveal.

About the Author

Robert Valencia is the breaking news editor for The North Star. His work as editor and reporter appeared on Newsweek, World Politics Review,, Public Radio International and The Miami Herald, among other outlets. He’s a frequent commentator on foreign affairs and US politics on Al Jazeera English, CNN en Español, Univision, Telemundo, Voice of America, C-SPAN, Sirius XM and other media outlets across Latin America and the Caribbean.