County Attorney to ICE: Officials Who Leave Kids Unattended May Be Guilty of Child Abuse

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has issued a public warning that government workers may be guilty of child abuse if they leave migrant children unattended in Arizona.

"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," a press release from Montgomery's office says. "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."

We've asked the county attorney's spokesman for any instances in which this has actually happened. We didn't receive an immediate response.

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Montgomery's warning comes amid reports that there's an influx of unaccompanied minors from Central American countries showing up to the border in Texas, and being shipped to various places including Arizona due to overcrowding.

There are also reports of migrant families of women and children from Central America being dropped off at bus stations in Phoenix, and elsewhere, while they wait for immigration court dates. One of the volunteers for the Phoenix Restoration Project, which helps provide necessities for these families, told us last week that there are no unaccompanied minors being dropped off at the bus station.

Instead, various news accounts details how the holding facilities for these children are becoming incredibly overcrowded.

Montgomery actually concedes in his letter to ICE that it's "unclear" whether federal officials are actually abandoning children at bus stations, but blames President Obama nonetheless.

"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 says. "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."

We'll update this post if/when we get a response from the county attorney's office.

UPDATE June 10, 6:19 a.m.: No response.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley