The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas has filed a federal class-action damages lawsuit alleging that there have been more than 180 sexual abuse complaints in immigration detention centers since 2007. Three cases are highlighted in the suit. All three women claim to be assaulted by detention guards and officers on the way to the airport after being released from immigration detention facilities. The ACLU claims that these are not isolated incidents, and that sexual abuse of immigration detainees is a widespread national problem.
The ACLU claims that the Department of Justice is complicit in these attacks because they proposed a rule that explicitly excludes immigration detention facilities from protection under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). Congress enacted PREA to establish standards for preventing, detecting, and responding to sexual abuse.
The ACLU discovered through a Freedom of Information Act Request that since 2007 there have been nearly 200 allegations of abuse from detainees spanning detention facilities throughout the United States. They predict that that the number of cases reported does not accurately reflect the scope of the problem, however, because sexual abuse is under-reported worldwide.
Mark Whitburn, Senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas, believes that the documented complaints may only be the tip of the iceberg:
“Immigrants in detention are uniquely vulnerable to abuse, and those holding them in custody know it. Many do not speak English, many – like our plaintiffs – have fled violence in their home countries and are terrified of being returned. They may not be aware of their rights or they may be afraid to exercise them.”
This news comes almost exactly two years to the day that the Obama administration announced their "ambitious plan to repair the immigration detention system."
Another day, another broken promise.
Matthew Kolken is a trial lawyer with experience in all aspects of United States Immigration Law including Immigration Courts throughout the United States, and appellate practice before the Board of Immigration Appeals, the U.S. District Courts, and U.S. Courts of Appeals. He is admitted to practice in the courts of the State of New York , the United States District Court for the Western District of New York, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).