Sexual Abuse in Immigration Detention - Kimberly's Story
Kimberly is from a country in South America. She married when she was 19 years old, and has three children. Her husband, a truck driver, began to beat her shortly after they were married. Over time the abuse escalated, especially when he was using drugs. Finally, he threatened to kill her. She spent several days in another town in her home country, but he found out she was there and she knew she wasn’t safe. She moved to a country in Central America, hoping he would get better and she could ultimately go back home. Her mother-in-law told her not to come back because her son – Kimberly’s husband – was continuing to abuse alcohol and drugs and was becoming more violent.
Ultimately, Kimberly’s husband figured out where in Central America Kimberly was staying and, in fear for her life, she decided to make her way north to the United States.
Kimberly paid a coyote $4,000 and in the spring of 2010, after a long overland journey, she crossed the Rio Grande and entered the United States. US immigration officials were waiting on the other side of a fence and immediately took Kimberly and the others in the group into custody.
Kimberly was transferred to the T. Don Hutto facility a few days later. About a week after Kimberly arrived at Hutto, an immigration official interviewed her to determine whether she had a credible fear of persecution if she returned to her home country. After hearing Kimberly’s story, the immigration officer concluded that Kimberly did have a credible fear of persecution, and therefore a basis to seek asylum in the United States. Kimberly was told she would be released from Hutto provided she could post a $4,000 bond. A friend loaned her the money, and a few days later the bond was approved.
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.
After about 15 minutes the driver pulled over at a gas station and told me to get out of the car. During the time I was detained, I had never been allowed to leave the facility, and the surroundings were completely foreign to me. I didn’t know where I was or how long it would take to get to the airport or why we were stopping.
The driver got very close to me and indicated through gestures that he was going to pat pat me down. He indicated that I should to lift up my arms and spread my legs, then lifted my shirt and began touching my breasts and grabbing between my legs. The driver was talking in English and laughing, and I had no idea what he was saying because I do not speak English. Then he told me to get back in the car, but in the front seat. I was terrified and did as he said. I pressed myself into the corner of the seat by the door, as far away from him as possible, and didn’t look at him. The driver resumed driving, frequently looking me up and down and saying “it is beautiful.” He called someone on his cell phone, and I heard him laughing and saying “beautiful” and I knew he was talking about me.
After about 20 minutes the driver stopped again. It was very dark and the road was deserted. I knew something wasn’t right. He turned the car off. He kept saying “it is beautiful” and saying “for me, for me.” I turned away from him and kept saying “no, no, no.” He started yelling for me to look at him, and finally I looked sideways and saw that he was touching himself and he was grabbing me, wanting me to touch him. I was leaning away with my seatbelt on, pushing into the door and crying. The doors were locked, there were no cars on the road, and there was nothing I could do. I just shut up. I was crying, and he talked to me as if I were nothing. I thought he was going to kill me.
I was in a situation that I never dreamed I would be in. I was already running away from one person. I was afraid, afraid for my life, wanting to get out of there. He finally stopped because it was time for me to get to the airport to catch my flight. I know he would have done something, he was so angry.. If he had had time, he would have. I was crying a lot. And yelling, “no, no, no.”
I didn’t speak to anybody about what happened to me. I knew that my name and my information was in the government’s system and I was so afraid that if I told anyone, he could find me and hurt me. I didn’t tell a single person about what happened to me – not my family, not my immigration attorney, no one.. For months afterwards, I couldn’t go to sleep at night because I was so afraid he would find me.
A few months later ICE officials contacted me and told me they wanted to talk to me. They came to visit me and asked me to tell them what happened when I was being transported to the airport. So I told them everything about what happened. They told me they knew I was telling the truth because they already knew everything I told them. Up until then, I didn’t know that ICE knew anything. The whole time I was very afraid because I thought the man who assaulted me sent them. They told me the guy confessed what he had done, and that they came only to find out truth. They told me not to worry, that I would never see this guy again, that it was a crime what he had done. They told me at the end that they had found out what he was doing because one of the other women he assaulted had reported him. They asked me why I hadn’t reported what he did to me. I told them I was too afraid. I left my home country because I have to survive. I cannot afford to die for nothing. I have 3 kids.