According to Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), there have been thousands of sexual assaults in ICE Detention facilities have gone uninvestigated between 2010 and 2016. In April of 2017, the organization filed a Federal Civil Rights Complaint noting that of the 33,126 reported incidents of physical and sexual abuse only 570 have been investigated by the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General’s Office. Usually, the office referred complaints back to originating facilities or offices.
While a number of DHS Agencies are included in the complaint, including Customs and Border Protection, TSA and the Coast Guard, the highest number of complaints originated from within Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), with 44.4% or 14,693 of the total.
The abuse and assaults reportedly occur at all points of interaction with detained immigrants, including; during strip searches, medical examinations and rapes perpetrated by facility guards and also other detainees.
Privately-Run Detention Facilities Are Worst of All
According to the aforementioned source, the facilities with the worst records of all are those run by private corrections contract companies, though similar circumstances prevail within ICE facilities across the nation.
In 2011 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) submitted a FOIA request to the United States Department of Homeland Security. Following receipt of preliminary responses, the ACLU noted,
“While the information gleaned from the documents we have thus far received is surely just the tip of the iceberg, and while these documents generally describe allegations rather than proven incidents, the results summarized above nonetheless paint a very instructive picture about how widespread this problem is and how vulnerable to abuse immigration detainees can be.”
The response documents recorded allegations of nearly 200 cases of sexual assault and abuse from facilities across the nation.
While the CIVIC report notes that reports of sexual assault and abuse are seldom followed up by independent investigations, in privately-run detention centers the situation is far worse. There are many reasons for this. First of all, what happens in private facilities is obscured from taxpayer oversight as they are not bound by the same requirements under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) as publicly-run facilities.
An article in Forbes magazine further summarizes problems with privately-run facilities as follows;
“Government regulation of these private prisons is toothless and sporadic due to the comfortable relationship between regulators and the regulated. As a former deputy director of ICE recently pointed out, for-profit prison companies have been hiring former immigration officials to help them secure favorable contract terms. Therefore, the vast majority of private immigration detention contracts do not include any robust penalty provisions for failing to meet government standards. Oversight of these private companies is left almost entirely to nonprofits and faith communities that volunteer to visit and monitor detention facilities with little or no formal support from the government.”
Forbes goes on to note that privately-run facilities detain 73% of all immigrant detainees.
Female immigrant detainees are an exceedingly vulnerable population: Separated by language, culture, distance from family and friends and without any semblance of political or social power, they are too often subjected to predatory correctional officers and facility staff.
Being Watchful and Seeking Assistance in New Mexico
There are currently two immigrant detention centers in the State of New Mexico, the Otero County Detention Center and the new facility in Milan in the Northwestern quadrant of the State. Both of these facilities are privately-run.
In addition to these two detention centers, some counties in the State of New Mexico have also housed immigrant detainees, including Torrance (recently closed) and San Juan Counties, though a Federal Judge recently ruled that the latter should no longer honor Ice Detainers.
As has been widely noted, the State of New Mexico has among the worst rates of sexual assault and abuse in the United States. There have been many verified incidents involving sexual violence in correctional facilities, private and publicly administered.
In addition to concerns arising out of past problems with privately-run correctional institutions in the State, there are also problems such as the rape-kit backlog in New Mexico—as a recent article in the Albuquerque Journal reported. As has also been reported, facilities in the State are very understaffed.
The challenges and fears of those who have been subjected to sexual assault and abuse are horrible, but they are exponentially worse for immigrant detainees. Immigrant detainees are human beings and they most certainly have rights. If you know someone who has suffered sexual assault or abuse in an immigrant detention facility, make a confidential call to an attorney who will know how to fight and restore some measure of justice to the victim.
Sexual Abuse in Immigration Detention | American Civil Liberties Union
Sexual Abuse in Immigration Detention | American Civil Liberties Union For people swept up in the vast network of jails and prisons that is our nation’s immigration detention system, being detained means not just facing a loss of liberty, separation from their families and the prospect of deportation. It means being vulnerable to the myriad abuses that the system has been found to be rife with, including unconstitutional levels of medical and mental health care that have left people fighting for their lives.
Among the most pernicious problems to emerge in recent years is the sexual abuse of detainees. apple government contractors who staff the nation’s immigration centers.
Sexual Assaults in Immigration Detention Centers Rarely Get Investigated, Group Charges – NBC News
Sexual Assaults in Immigration Detention Centers Rarely Get Investigated, Group Charges – NBC News The OIG, tasked with investigating government wrongdoing, started categorizing “sexual abuse” complaints in 2014, and since then the agency received at least 1,016 reports — primarily from the division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — according to the complaint based on several Freedom of Information Act requests.
“That’s an average of more than one complaint of sexual abuse per day,” said CIVIC Executive Director Christina Fialho.
Yet, OIG ignored almost 98 percent of those, deeming them unsubstantiated or referring them back to the agency accused of the abuse with no follow-up, she said.