ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Honduran family in Rochester awarded $80k for mistreatment by border patrol

Two Honduran sisters living in Rochester accepted an $80,000 settlement offer from the federal government following a lawsuit that alleged the pair suffered mistreatment by border patrol agents in 2021.

01 100921-BORDER-LAWSUIT-SISTERS-00581.jpg
Kerlin Sanchez Villalobos, 18, right, and her 16-year-old sister were awarded $80,000 following a settlement for their lawsuit against the U.S. government for its treatment of them at the border in June 2019 when they came to the U.S. from Honduras seeking asylum. The girls now live in Rochester with their mother.
Post Bulletin file photo
We are part of The Trust Project.

ROCHESTER — Two Rochester sisters have been awarded $80,000 following a settlement agreement between the family and the United States federal government after the pair accused border patrol agents of mistreatment.

The agreement, approved by United States District Judge Nancy Brasel last week, allows the federal government to deny any wrongdoing and for the settlement to split evenly between the Kerlin Sanchez Villalobos and her younger sister.

“Once I got to the border and saw the border, I started crying. I was so emotional because I felt like this is it – everything that's happened, it's done, and now I am going to be OK," Sanchez Villalobos told the Post Bulletin in October 2021 .

But what Sanchez Villalobos didn’t know was that shortly after she and her sister were released from the Customs and Border Protection Detention Center less than 30 miles outside of El Paso in Clint, Texas, the facility would make headlines for what the recently filed lawsuit calls “grotesque violations of children’s rights.”

For Sanchez Villalobos and her sister, that meant sleeping in cages, being hungry all the time and being forced to compete against other children for food.

ADVERTISEMENT

Sanchez Villalobos and her mother, Daysi Villalobos Izaguirre, filed a lawsuit last year in U.S. District Court in Minnesota with the two daughters being listed as the injured parties in the case. It was litigated by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota and Texas, as well as Dorsey & Whitney LLP.

“The United States did not provide Kerlin and Y.S. (the younger, minor daughter) access to drinking water. In fact, the girls do not recall ever being given water. Agents gave them small juice boxes to drink with meals,” the complaint states. “With knowledge that the regular meals were inadequate, the CBP agents tormented the detained children by making them compete with one another for extra food. Hungry children were forced to throw a ball in a basket, for example, and the winner would get a burrito while the other children would be left hungry. Both Kerlin and Y.S. competed with the other children in an attempt to get food to quell their hunger.”

The lawsuit states that Sanchez Villalobos was kicked by a CBP guard twice, knocking her to the ground, and making her food inedible, and injuring her so that she couldn't walk properly. While at the facility, Sanchez Villalobos and her sister also witnessed other children being abused and neglected, and were forced into care-giving roles.

After nine days in the Clint facility, the girls were flown to Brownsville, Texas, to be placed in separate group homes. Separating the girls without a legally justifiable reason based on their immigration status or health is against an existing agreement of how unaccompanied minors should be treated. The group homes where the girls were sent have been cited for significant violations.

“While they were no longer subjected to the physical harm of the Clint facility, the girls were subjected to further emotional and psychological harm,” the lawsuit states. “The emotional damage of being separated from one another needlessly without any knowledge of whether they would be reunited was crushing to both Kerlin and Y.S.”

Mark Wasson has been a public safety reporter with Post Bulletin since May 2022. Previously, he worked as a general assignment reporter in the southwest metro and as a public safety reporter in Willmar, Minn. Readers can reach Mark at mwasson@postbulletin.com.
What To Read Next
Shoppers of a bridal and tuxedo retailer were met with confusion Wednesday as the long-running store closed suddenly.
A proposed $450,000 payment for Olmsted County’s share of a former muffler shop could make way for city of Rochester development plans.
Owner and designer Daniel Johnson Jr. closed his Levels store in Rochester’s Apache Mall as well as his shop in the Mall of America on Jan. 31. However, both will reopen in new spaces in March.
Rochester council will be asked to move forward on developing concept for project as Minnesota lawmakers review local sales tax request.