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Eight Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors Sue Cornell Over Physical Abuse

Eight unaccompanied minors formerly held under the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement have sued Houston-based Cornell Companies alleging physical abuse and other violations of their constitutional rights. According to the KRIS TV ("Detention Facility for Immigrant Kids Sued") article,

Eight immigrant teenagers held at a facility for unaccompanied minors filed a federal lawsuit Thursday claiming they were abused and denied access to attorneys.

The teens from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Cuba were being held at the San Antonio facility run by Houston-based Cornell Companies Inc. under a contract with the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Undocumented minors caught by authorities in the United States fall under the care of ORR while their immigration cases are decided.

But Susan Watson, an attorney for Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, said the teens were beaten and subjected to other excessive force in violation of their constitutional rights.

At least one teen was knocked unconscious, but complaints to facility administrators were ignored, according to the lawsuit.

As the article rightly states that this isn't the first problem at a Cornell facility.

Arkansas fired Cornell from the operation of a juvenile facility in November 2006 after finding employees inappropriately injected youth with anti-psychotic medication to control behavior.

And in September, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials removed 600 detainees from an Albuquerque, N.M., facility run by Cornell, citing failure to maintain safety, health and well-being standards there.

As we reported last week, Cornell has made a bid to take over the former Webb County juvenile detention center and turn it into a half-way house. This lawsuit might give Webb County officials further pause in their negotiations with Cornell.

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