ICE Claims That Sexually Abusing a Detainee Isn’t a Federal Crime

A woman publicly identified as E.D. was in an ICE detention center in Pennsylvania with her 3-year-old son when she says staff member Daniel Sharkey sexually assaulted her. E.D., 19 and seeking asylum in the United States after fleeing domestic violence in Honduras, claims that Sharkey threatened her and suggested that, if she resisted his advances, she and her son would face deportation.

In E.D.’s lawsuit against Sharkey, the Berks Family Residential Center, a handful of other staff members and ICE, she alleges that this transpired while other workers watched on, encouraging Sharkey.

Sharkey has since admitted guilt to sexual assault on the state level, but he has denied guilt to violating a federal law which explicitly forbids sexual interaction between inmates and prison staff members. In a strange contradiction, Sharkey claims the incident was consensual.

Federal law, however, strictly forbids any sexual interaction between prison staff and inmates, regardless of consent. However, the defense claims that this law, the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, does not apply to this situation because the Berks Family Residential Center is not technically a prison — even though E.D. was being detained there.

Sadly, E.D.’s case is far from unique.

Official ICE records show that 1,310 acts of sexual abuse against detainees have been reported between 2013 and 2017. And though ICE officials have shrugged this figure off as low, most experts say that this number is likely nowhere near the true number of sexual assaults committed by ICE employees — especially given the large volume of immigrants processed or held in their various facilities, .

Even if the official numbers were accurate, what makes even a single act of sexual assault against a detainee acceptable? This attitude from ICE officials should underscore the mentality that permeates the agency, illustrating how immigrants — and, in particular, vulnerable women — are dehumanized and exploited by people in positions of power.

But it shouldn’t be a surprise. Over a year ago, I wrote about ICE officials seeking permission to amend record keeping policy. In their request to the National Archives and Record Administration, ICE asked that 11 different types of records – including those pertaining to allegations of sexual abuse — be redefined in order to allow them to be destroyed after a shorter period of time.

Was this because ICE is pinching pennies and trying to save money on file storage? Hardly. It isn’t difficult to see that this request is borne out of a desire to avoid accountability.

Although NARA has yet to formally approve or reject this request, a leaked memo from a NARA official to ICE suggested that the agency go forward with these changes on a “temporary” basis.

It is outrageous that a federal agency is going to bat for agency employees who are sexually abusing the people they’re tasked with dealing with — and in these cases, vulnerable women seeking safety and a better life for them and their families. It does not matter one’s political view of immigration, documented or undocumented, this is not debatable: No individual should ever face sexual abuse, especially at the hands of an authority figure.

Take Action!

Call on the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, to conduct a full investigation into their facilities — whether they are technically “prisons” or not — to uncover hidden cases of sexual abuse and to hold individuals and their employers responsible for their crimes by adding your name to this Care2 petition!

Together we can seek justice for these women and their families!

Concerned about an issue? Want to raise awareness about an injustice? Join your fellow Care2 users by learning how to make your own petition and make your voice heard today!


Photo Credit: Master Steve Rapport/Flickr


Gene J
Eugene J2 months ago

This is just insane. There can be NO consensual activity between a detained person and a guard, the law and the imbalance of power make that self-evident. As this idiot will find out in court. This is NEVER okay.

Latoya B
Latoya B2 months ago

Sexually abusing anyone should be a federal crime.

Joan E
Joan E2 months ago

The good news is, yesterday Mueller and company really pinned Trump for his crimes. The national nightmare Trump has caused --hurting citizens, hurting the planet, hurting the economy, hurting animals, abusing innocent children and more -- may finally be ending soon.

Tania N
Tania N2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Tania N
Tania N2 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Camilla Vaga
Camilla V2 months ago


Dr. Jan H
Dr. Jan H2 months ago


Paulo R
Paulo R2 months ago

i'm shocked at the things i read on here and that they are actually factual.

Leo C
Leo C2 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

rita uljee
rita u2 months ago

what kind of bizar statement is that? it is very low and sick to state such a abuse as not being a crime it Always is!