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Complaints of Sexual Abuse in Immigration Detention Facility

This week several legal groups reported that female detainees at an immigration facility in Karnes City, Texas were harassed and sexually abused at the hands of the employees of the facility. These women were detained for violating the immigration laws by unlawfully crossing into the United States across the Texas border. Last August, marked a dramatic increase in migration to the United States, across the border from Mexico of unaccompanied minor children and their mothers. Following that influx, the Department of Homeland Security adapted the Karnes City center to accommodate these women and their children and families. Prior to last August, the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, had reduced the number facilities that accommodated women and families due to numerous complaints of abuse, similar in nature to what happened in Texas just this week.

Interviews with these women uncovered allegations that at least three employees from the facility abused these women sexually, by removing them from their cells and forcing them to engage in sexual activity. These women also allege that the employees offered them money in exchange for sexual acts. The women also women allege that the employees humiliated them by grapping them sexually and inappropriately in front of other inmates. The employees even publically called them by pet names, such as “girlfriend” in Spanish, over their objection. When the women reported what had occurred, there was no action taken by the facility or the Department of Homeland Security, according to the complaint that was filed. This non-action on the part of the federal government would clearly violate the laws set in place that serve to shelter and protect inmates in any detention facility.

On Tuesday of this week, the formal complaint was sent to the Department of Homeland Security. It requested that Immigration and Customs Enforcement take immediate action and investigate alleged abuse of these women at the facility, at the hands of the employees, there to protect them. Advocates for the victims stated that this abuse is another good reason that women and children, whose only crime it is to cross the border, should not be detained in such facilities. Often these families are victims of horrific criminal or sexual abuse in their own countries and are fleeing to the United States with the hope of finding protection. The outcry against the guards abuse of power is being heard yet the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s spokesperson would not comment on the current allegations or the progress of this particular investigation. The spokesperson for the government did say that the Department of Homeland Security complies with the Prison Rape Elimination Act regulations in protecting their inmates from sexual abuse.

The spokesperson also said in a statement that the Department of Homeland Security has a zero- tolerance policy for violation of the sexual abuse and or assault laws in place in all government facilities and promised that the allegations would be investigated carefully and if found to be true, would bring about appropriate consequences to the individuals who may have committed these crimes of abuse against these wome