Lawyers Say ICE Detainees Are Regularly Sexually Assaulted By Guards

In a joint effort to expose patterns of sexual abuse at ICE Detentions Centers, ProPublica and The Texas Tribune have uncovered evidence that guards systematically assaulted at least three people in a facility overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in El Paso, Texas. Reports indicate the assaults often took place in areas of the detention center not visible to security cameras. The guards told victims that no one would believe them because footage did not exist and the harassment involved officers as high-ranking as a lieutenant.

Detained migrants at the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center had been asking for an investigation by law enforcement, according to a complaint submitted to the El Paso County District Attorney.

According to the complaint, several guards “forcibly” kissed and touched the intimate parts of at least one woman. She faces deportation next week — meaning investigators could lose a key witness. Her attorneys have requested that immigration officials pause her deportation pending a review of the matter. “Although lieutenants, captains, and ICE supervisors have been made aware of these patterns of sexual misconduct, we present a pattern by which they have failed to protect detainees as required by U.S. law and ICE internal guidance,” according to the complaint.

Since the complaint was filed, two more women, including one who is currently detained in the El Paso facility and one who was previously held there, have come forward with abuse allegations. At least one other woman was deported after a guard assaulted her, detainees told lawyers.

The El Paso allegations are the latest instance of sexual abuse complaints related to detention centers run by ICE, which imprisons about 50,000 immigrants across the country each year. In an emailed statement, ICE said the agency “has zero tolerance for any form of sexual abuse or assault against individuals in the agency’s custody and takes very seriously all allegations of employee misconduct.”

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