Sisters who were detained at Texas Border Patrol facility win $80K settlement

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Two Minnesota teens received a settlement for $80,000 from the federal government because of their treatment at Texas Border Patrol facilities in 2019.

FIVE EYEWITNESS NEWS sat down with the sisters who say they’re still healing from the abuse and mistreatment.

“I’m happy to be with my family,” Kerlin Sanchez-Villalobos said in Spanish. “I am grateful to God I have the opportunity to be with my mom and sisters in Minnesota.”

For the last three years, the Sanchez-Villalobos sisters have been settling into their new home in Rochester with their mom and baby sister.  

The journey to get to Minnesota was not easy. 

In June of 2019, the girls, who were 14 and 16 at the time, crossed the Mexico border seeking asylum, hoping to reach their mom in Minnesota. They were arrested by border patrol.

In the Texas border facility, the sisters say they did not have access to water or enough food. In some cases, they say they were forced to play games to be fed. 

Kerlin and her younger sister were crossing into the U.S. during the border surge in 2019 that led to federal investigations into how children were treated by the Department of Homeland Security.

According to the DHS report, officials found serious overcrowding, a lack of hot meals and access to clean clothes or a shower.

“Unfortunately, there wasn’t a lot of accountability for what happened,” Ian Bratlie, ACLU Minnesota Attorney, said. 

Bratlie represents the Sanchez-Villalobos family.

In 2021, they filed a lawsuit alleging the sisters were forced into overcrowded cages where they slept on the floor. Bratlie said at one point, one of the girls was assaulted by a guard.

The federal government settled the lawsuit this week for $80,000.

“To our knowledge, this is the only lawsuit by children that were held in these detention facilities during the surge in 2019,” Bratlie said. 

Kerlin and her younger sister said it won’t erase what happened, but it will help them move forward.