PHILADELPHIA — An appeals court ruled today ruled that E.D., an asylum-seeker, could move forward with her claims against the Berks County Residential Center, a family immigrant detention facility, and its officials after she was sexually assaulted by one of its employees.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that supervisors at the facility have the obligation to neither condone nor authorize sexual assault committed by another employee.  The court also rejected the defendants’ argument that E.D. had consented to the assault, emphasizing that “E.D. was ‘detained’ and that, under ICE policies and standards, as well as Pennsylvania law, any sexual contact between a staff member and a detainee constitutes sexual abuse regardless of consent.”

The ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case. Sandra Park, senior staff attorney with the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, issued the following response:

“The notion that sexual activity between detainees and detention facility staff could ever be consensual is ridiculous. It’s shameful that the Berks immigration detention center tried to argue as much. Sexual violence is a pervasive issue in immigration detention, and these facilities must be held accountable for abuses that occur under their watch.”

The friend-of-the-court brief was filed by the ACLU, ACLU of Pennsylvania, Women’s Law Project, Futures Without Violence, Tahirih Justice Center, Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence, Just Detention International, and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence. 

The opinion can be found online here: https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/ed-v-sharkey-court-opinion

The amicus brief can be found online here: https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/ed-v-sharkey-amicus-brief

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