The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has released government documents containing 185 allegations of sexual abuse against female immigration detainees in federal detention centers since 2007.
Many of the women are refugees fleeing persecution including torture and rape.
ACLU has provided detailed narratives by three women describing sexual assaults by guards whilst they were being transported in prison vans.
Almost all US immigration detainees, including asylum seekers and refugees, are not detained in specialist facilities but in normal state prisons.
The ACLU says the 185 assaults happened all around the country, with more allegations against facilities in Texas than in any other state, but they do not represent the full scope of the problem because sexual assault is “notoriously underreported.”
Mark Whitburn, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement:
“Immigrants in detention are uniquely vulnerable to abuse – and those holding them in custody know it. Many do not speak English … and may not be aware of their rights, or they may be afraid to exercise them.”
The ACLU has launched a class-action suit in Texas on behalf of three women who are seeking asylum in the US after fleeing sexual assault in their home countries.
Lisa Graybill, legal director of the ACLU of Texas, said in a statement:
“The fact that these women sought sanctuary in the United States – only to find abuse at the hands of officials they thought would protect them – is wholly inconsistent with America’s self-proclaimed reputation as a beacon of human rights.”
The Texas suit names three officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a guard accused of assaulting the women and Corrections Corp. of America, the country’s largest private prisons contractor.
Donald Dunn, the guard in Texas named in the lawsuit, has pleaded guilty in state court to three counts of official repression and two counts of unlawful restraint related to assaults against five women, according to the ACLU. Dunn also faces four federal counts of criminal violations of civil rights, the ACLU said.
Picture credit Richard Vallejo
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