For months, Laura Monterrosa, an asylum seeker who is currently detained at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Texas, says she’s been subjected to threats, harassment, and sexual abuse at the hands of officials throughout her detention at the privately-run facility. She hasn’t been silent:
In January, Monterrosa told The Outline that she had been abused by a female guard there for months, and that other guards had known about it. Monterrosa had initially published an anonymous letter detailing her abuse in November. Then, CoreCivic guards, who were tipped off by an anonymous call, interviewed her. She was also interviewed by ICE officials and the local sheriff’s office. “They treated me like I wasn’t a victim — like I was a criminal,” Monterrosa told The Outline. ICE and the sheriff’s office both closed the case.
But in December, the FBI took over Laura’s case from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and went to the detention center to interview her. It’s then that human rights group Grassroots Leadership says ICE and CoreCivic’s retaliation tactics escalated to extreme cruelty:
Survivor of sexual assault Laura Monterrosa was locked in solitary confinement for 60 hours in Hutto Detention Center this weekend as an act of retaliation by ICE. From approximately 11 PM on Friday night to 11 AM Monday morning, Laura was told she would not be released from solitary confinement until she publicly stated that she had not been sexually abused.
“One ICE Official named Soto specifically demanded Laura call me and tell me she was no longer going to work with us,” said Grassroots Leadership’s Bethany Carson. “The ICE official went as far as telling her that he expected her to recant her claim to the media, or else she would be locked up again in solitary confinement indefinitely.”
Sexual abuse and harassment have been rampant at Hutto and other Texas detention facilities for years. According to Women’s Refugee Commission, in 2007 a guard employed by CoreCivic was “fired for sexually assaulting multiple women inside their cells”:
Unfortunately, this is not the first time sexual assault of detainees has occurred. In the spring of 2007, another guard at Hutto was terminated for having sex with a female detainee in her cell. Also in 2007, a guard was convicted in Florida for raping a woman during transport between detention facilities. In the summer of 2009, investigations were pending involving four rapes at the Willacy detention facility in Texas. Earlier this year, a guard at the Port Isabel Detention Center in Texas was convicted of sexually assaulting three women. In each of these cases, the safety and well-being of the victims was jeopardized by ICE’s feeble and secretive response.
According to Grassroots Leadership and advocates, “over the past four months, community advocates have witnessed ICE and CoreCivic’s retaliation tactics against Laura escalate from verbal aggression to threats of administrative discipline and indefinite periods of confinement.” Following 60 hours in solitary—which is torture—“advocates are calling on the Taylor Police Department to investigate ICE’s intimidation of Laura”:
“This should not be happening in America. Here you have a woman who came forward to report rampant sexual abuse inside of a federal facility. Instead of protecting her, and ensuring the abuse stops, ICE is now putting Laura in solitary confinement with the expressed intent of tearing her down so she will do as they say. This is against the law. There is an ongoing FBI investigation and ICE is trying to convince this witness to change her story.” said Claudia Muñoz, immigration programs director at Grassroots Leadership. “This is one of the most egregious abuses I have ever witnessed.”
“While Laura’s investigation is pending with the FBI,” Carson said, “we are asking the Taylor Police Department to do everything in their power to investigate ICE for the witness tampering and obstruction of justice as ICE violates Laura’s civil rights.” Source: DailyKos
Thousands of Migrants Have Reported Sexual Abuse While in ICE Custody
Data from the Department of Homeland Security showed that thousands of migrants have alleged sexual abuse while in the custody of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
While the number of sexual abuse claims from detainees that ICE reported was significantly lower (the agency reported 1,310 claims between fiscal years 2013 to 2017), watchdog organizations estimate the occurrence of sexual abuse to be significantly higher. Continue Reading: Thousands of Migrants Have Reported Sexual Abuse While in ICE Custody
ICE Detainee Sent to Solitary Confinement for Encouraging Protest of “Voluntary” Low-Wage Labor
by Spencer Woodman, reprinted with permission from The Intercept
In June, officials at a privately run Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in rural Georgia sentenced an immigrant detainee to a month in solitary confinement to punish him for encouraging fellow detainees to stop working in protest of low wages at the facility. Three days after the detainee shouted “no work, no pay” in a facility kitchen, according to ICE records, “the detainee was found guilty of encouraging others to participate in a work stoppage and was sentenced to 30 days of disciplinary segregation.”
Immigrants confined in ICE facilities often work for only $1 per day, but the immigration agency’s guidelines state that all such work must be voluntary. Earlier this year, a federal judge cleared the way for a class-action lawsuit originally brought by nine ICE detainees alleging that ICE contractor the GEO Group had profited off forced labor in violation of federal anti-slavery laws.
In the case of the Georgia facility, ICE’s records obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request simply list “work stoppage” as the reason for using solitary confinement to punish the immigrant detainee, who is originally from Haiti.
In response to questions from The Intercept, ICE did not attempt to defend this use of solitary confinement at the facility, Stewart Detention Center, which is run by private prison contractor CoreCivic (formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America).
An ICE spokesperson said that detainee labor at Stewart is governed by the agency’s “voluntary work program” and sent a link to ICE detention standards, which state, “Detainees shall be able to volunteer for work assignments but otherwise shall not be required to work, except to do personal housekeeping.” The spokesperson told The Intercept to contact CoreCivic for questions regarding the disciplinary action. Continue reading: ICE Detainee Sent to Solitary Confinement for Encouraging Protest
US: Deaths in Immigration Detention
Newly released United States government records summarizing investigations of the deaths of 18 migrants in the custody of US immigration authorities support a conclusion that subpar care contributed to at least seven of the deaths, Human Rights Watch said today.
The death reviews, from mid-2012 to mid-2015, reveal substandard medical care and violations of applicable detention standards. Two independent medical experts consulted by Human Rights Watch concluded that these failures probably contributed to the deaths of 7 of the 18 detainees, while potentially putting many other detainees in danger as well. The records also show evidence of the misuse of isolation for people with mental disabilities, inadequate mental health evaluation and treatment, and broader medical care failures.
“In 2009, the Obama administration promised major immigration detention reforms, including more centralized oversight and improved health care,” said Clara Long, US researcher at Human Rights Watch. “But these death reviews show that system-wide problems remain, including a failure to prevent or fix substandard medical care that literally kills people.”
The death reviews, released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in June 2016, cover 18 of the 31 deaths of detainees that the agency acknowledges have occurred since May 2012. ICE has not released its reviews of the other 13 deaths in that time period.
The US maintains the capacity to hold 34,000 noncitizens in civil detention at any one time, in an expansive network of more than 200 facilities including county jails, private detention centers, and a handful of federal lockups. Most of the hundreds of thousands of people held in this system each year are subject to harsh mandatory detention laws, which do not allow for an individualized review of the decision to detain them during their immigration proceedings. Continue reading: US: Deaths in Immigration Detention
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