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.

The data, obtained from the DHS’s Office of the Inspector General by The New York Timesrevealed complaints going back as far as 10 years.

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.

One woman, identified only as “Maria,” told the Times she had been sexually assaulted by a male guard shortly after being released from the T. Don Hutto Residential Detention Center in Texas.

The woman said that she had been given permission to stay in Washington, D.C., with her brother while her asylum case was pending.

Instead of being given safe transfer to D.C., however, the woman described a harrowing experience of sexual assault by a guard both before and after entering a van meant to transport her to be reunited with her family.

“He grabbed my breasts… He put his hands in my pants and he touched my private parts,” Maria said. “He touched me again inside the van and my hands were tied. And he started masturbating.”

Another woman, who was identified only as “E.D.,” alleged that she had been sexually assaulted by a male guard while being held at a family detention center in Pennsylvania with her 3-year-old son.

“I didn’t know how to refuse because he told me that I was going to be deported,” the woman, 19, told the newspaper.

“I was at a jail and he was a migration officer. It’s like they order you to do something and you have to do it,” she said.

Earlier this year, the American Civil Liberties Union said it had fought an application from ICE to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which instructs federal agencies on how to maintain their records and approves plans for destroying records, which in ICE’s case would include files documenting sexual assaults.

The civil liberties union called on NARA to review the proposal “more closely,” arguing on its website that “government agencies with a long and well-documented record of abuse should not be permitted to destroy records about those abuses.”

The ACLU said the archives and records body has since committed to reviewing the request more closely and said ICE has not made any new proposal regarding the destruction of such records since.

“We will continue to keep a watchful eye for attempts by ICE and [Customs and Border Protection] to destroy records about their own wrongdoings,” the ACLU said.

ICE has not responded to a request for comment from Newsweek. Source: Newsweek

This is an ongoing problem all across America, in jails, prisons and even juvenile detention facilities:

Rape and Other Sexual Violence Prevalent in Juvenile Justice System

A 2010 investigation by the Tennessean found a series of allegations that had gone largely uninvestigated and unpunished by authorities. One of the facilities’ kitchen employees, the newspaper discovered, had reportedly given a 17-year-old boy chlamydia, and later lived with a different male juvenile who she had been accused of abusing while he was in the facility. The woman was cleared in four separate state investigations despite failing a lie detector test. She was ultimately convicted only after she turned herself in to police. In another case uncovered by the paper, a different female guard went on to marry a former inmate after he was released from the facility. The woman kept her job even after her marriage came to light.

Such incidents are sadly common inside our juvenile justice system. In the most recent federal survey of detained juveniles, nearly 8 percent of respondents reported being sexually victimized by a staff member at least once in the previous 12 months. For those who reported being abused, two things proved overwhelmingly true, as they were in Woodland Hills: They were teenage boys, and their alleged assailants were female employees tasked with looking out for their well-being. Nine in 10 of those who reported being victimized were males reporting incidents with female staff.

Hundreds of teen-agers are raped or sexually assaulted during their stays in the country’s juvenile detention facilities, and many of them are victimized repeatedly, according to a U.S. Department of Justice survey.

The teens are most often assaulted by staff members working at the facilities, and fully 20 percent of those victimized by the men and women charged with protecting and counseling them said they had been violated on more than 10 occasions.

“Today’s report illustrates the fundamental failure of many juvenile detention facilities to keep their youth safe,” said Lovisa Stannow, executive director of Just Detention International, a California-based health and human rights organization.

Source: ProPublica, Slate

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