PHOENIX – Federal officials who apprehend children in border enforcement actions and then leave them unattended at locations in Arizona may be guilty of felony child abuse under state law, warns Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. In a letter to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Montgomery alerted the agency to possible criminal violations and called for an end to the practice.
“The actions by the federal government under the administration of Barack Obama to transfer women and children who have entered the United States of America without lawful authority from Texas to bus stations in the State of Arizona are appalling,” Montgomery stated. “To the extent that even one unaccompanied minor under 16 years of age has been transferred to a bus station without regard for food, water or shelter or access to the same may also constitute felony child abuse under Arizona law. Cases submitted to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for such conduct may subject federal officials to prosecution by my office and we will not hesitate to seek appropriate punishment,” he added.
Montgomery cites Arizona Revised Statutes, Title 13, section 3623, which prohibits any person from causing a child to suffer physical injury or abuse or, having the care or custody of a child, causes or permits the person or health of the child to be injured or to be placed in a situation where the person or health of the child is endangered through dehydration or to be placed in any physical condition that imperils health or welfare. Any federal official who directly engages in such conduct or who authorizes such conduct may be guilty of a class 4 felony.
Montgomery also notes that placing women and children in harm’s way through similar conduct may amount to violations of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights. “This is not the America we aspire to be and does not responsibly address the challenges we face from unauthorized immigration,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery has sent a letter to the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement putting the agency on notice of the potential violation of Arizona’s child abuse laws and urging that ICE cease and desist the transfer of individuals who have entered the U.S. without lawful authority from Texas to Arizona, particularly to bus stations in Maricopa County.
“This administration’s malfeasance will not be conducive to creating an environment of trust and confidence necessary for the type of federal immigration reform essential for the security and well-being of the United States. A responsible system of immigration will not create false hope in parents and children leading to the surge in unaccompanied minors now streaming across our borders,” Montgomery said.
Download News Release and Montgomery’s letter to federal government (PDF)