Three migrant children die of flu in detention with US authorities refusing to give vaccines, as reports of child molesting emerge

Series of lawsuits being filed on behalf of immigrants who claim they were sexually abused in custody

Clark Mindock
New York
Wednesday 21 August 2019 00:22 BST

At least three migrant children being held in detention centres have died after suffering from flu, but US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has said that it does not plan to vaccinate detained immigrant families as winter approaches.

Further reports suggest children are being molested in some sites while in the care of the government.

“In general, due to the short-term nature of CBP holding and the complexities of operating vaccination programmes, neither CBP nor its medical contractors administer vaccinations to those in our custody,” a CBP spokeswoman said in a statement emailed to the CNBC news channel.

Dr Jonathan Winickoff, a paediatric professor at Harvard, told CNBC: "I can tell you from personal experience that child deaths are rare events."

He said that flu weakens a child's immune system making them more vulnerable to other illnesses, so flu could have been a contributing factor to the children's deaths even if they died of another cause.

Dr Winickoff added: "When I learned that multiple children had died in detention from potentially preventable causes, it truly disturbed me. The country needs urgent answers to that question so that children stop dying in detention."

The vaccine issue comes as dozens of families that were separated at the US-Mexico border prepare to sue the federal government, including several that say their young children were abused — sexually, physically, or emotionally — in federally funded foster care.

Those allegations are included in at least 38 legal claims, according to the Associated Press news agency, which was able to access some lawsuits before they were made public.

All of those suits together could leave American taxpayers liable for around $200m (£165m) in damages.

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More than 3,000 children were taken from their parents in recent years, the lawsuits claim. More plaintiffs could be added as more come forward, meaning the damages could run into billions.

“It’s the tip of the iceberg,” said Erik Walsh, an attorney with the law firm Arnold & Porter.

So far, just 18 of the claims have been filed,on behalf of nine families. They total $54m.

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