Sexual Abuse in Immigration Detention

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. According to government documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union through the Freedom of Information Act, nearly 200 allegations of abuse from detainees in detention facilities across the nation have been fielded by government officials since 2007 alone. And that is likely just the very tip of the iceberg. Sexual abuse is a problem that is widely underreported in the outside world, so there’s little question that number does not represent the full scope of the problem. But one thing is clear: the sexual abuse of immigration detainees is not an isolated problem, limited to one rogue facility or merely the result of a handful of bad apple government contractors who staff the nation’s immigration centers.

Disappointingly, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has proposed a rule that explicitly excludes immigration detention facilities from coverage under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). Congress enacted PREA to protect all persons in custody by setting standards for preventing, detecting, and responding to sexual abuse. But without PREA's protection, immigrants in detention remain vulnerable to abuse. For a population at such high risk of sexual abuse, this is unacceptable.

Client Stories & Background

"The day I left, I was told to get dressed and collect my belongings because I would be leaving that day. An ICE officer walked me to the van and said, get in, that van is going to take you to the airport. I got in the van and he locked me in a metal cage, and he gave the keys to the driver..."
More »

"I found out in the evening that my bond had been posted and I would be leaving the next day. They woke me up at 2 am to go to the airport. Someone gave me my property and took me to the facility’s office. I signed some papers and waited there. A driver came to and the same man who asked me to sign the papers walked me to the vehicle. I got into the vehicle. It was a prison car – from the inside you cannot see anything, everything is dark and you are surrounded by metal..."
More »

"I was woken at 4 am on the day of my release and told my bond had been approved and I would be leaving Hutto immediately. I was escorted to a transport car and told I was being driven to the airport. The driver was a large man. I was placed in the back seat. There was a grate dividing the front and back seats. No one else was in the car. It was completely dark outside..."
More »

Stay Informed