Thursday, April 13, 2017
Watchdog Organization Files Civil Rights Complaint Alleging Rising Sexual Abuse, Assault, and Harassment in U.S. Immigration Detention Facilities
Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) has filed a federal complaint with the Office for Civil Rights & Civil Liberties within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) detailing the prevalence of reports of sexual abuse, assault, and harassment in U.S. immigration detention facilities and the lack of adequate government investigation into these reports.
For its complaint, CIVIC analyzed data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for sexual assault data from the DHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The OIG received at least 1,016 reports of sexual abuse filed by people in detention between May 2014 and July 2016, meaning that the OIG received on average more than one complaint of sexual abuse from people in detention per day during this time period. CIVIC found that the OIG investigated only 24 of those complaints, or 2.4% of the total.
CIVIC determined that more complaints were submitted against Immigrations & Customs Enforcement (ICE) than any other DHS component agency. In addition to the 1,016 complaints of sexual abuse/assault reported by people in detention, there were 402 complaints of “coerced sexual contact”, 196 complaints of “sexual harassment”, and 380 complaints of “physical or sexual abuse” lodged against ICE.
As the complaint explains:
"Civil and human rights organizations, both governmental and non-governmental, have raised concerns over sexual abuse in U.S. immigration detention facilities for years:
● In 2009, the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission issued a report finding that “a large and growing number of detained immigrants are at risk of sexual abuse.”2 Factors cited for the “heightened vulnerability” of people in immigration detention included social isolation, language barriers, and reluctance to report abuse due to fears of retaliation and/or deportation.
● In 2010, Human Rights Watch released a report documenting more than 15 separate incidents and allegations of sexual abuse and harassment involving more than 50 alleged victims.
● In 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union obtained and published data containing nearly 200 allegations of sexual abuse in immigration detention since January 1, 2007.
● In 2014, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund submitted a complaint regarding numerous allegations of substantial, ongoing sexual abuse of women detained in the Karnes Center in Texas.
● In 2016, Human Rights Watch released a report about sexual assaults faced by many transgender women in immigration detention facilities."