Things That Matter

A Woman Has Come Forward To Accuse An ICE Agent Of Rape And Threatening Her With Deportation

A Honduran immigrant, identified in the lawsuit only as Jane Doe, sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement along with former ICE agent Wilfredo Rodriguez for repeatedly raping her over the course of seven years.

The woman, living in Connecticut, claims that an immigration agent threatened her with deportation if she refused to have sex with him. The ICE agent allegedly, repeatedly raped her as frequently as four times a week, and impregnated her three times. The woman is seeking $10 million in damages. 

Lawyers say the woman was essentially coerced by the ICE agent. 

“My only comment is that my client had a choice, cooperate with ICE or be deported with her family,” George Kramer, the woman’s lawyer, told KTLA.

The woman hopes to change the treatment of immigrants who choose to cooperate with ICE. 

“She remains in a very fragile psychological state. She is not only seeking compensation for the physical and emotional damage she suffered but to change the way those who are cooperating with ICE are treated by those in a position of power and who often wield total control over the ability to remain in the United States, Kramer said. 

The agent allegedly coerced her to become an informant.

An ICE spokesperson said the accused Wilfredo Rodriguez no longer works for the agency. According to the woman, she first met Rodriguez in 2006 after her brother was detained for entering the United States illegally. When Rodriguez discovered she was also undocumented, he forced the woman to become an informant and help the agency find undocumented criminals to deport, the lawsuit claims. The woman says she helped them arrest three undocumented immigrants who had stabbed her husband. 

The ICE agent repeatedly raped the woman, according to the lawsuit.

While trying to locate someone in 2007, Rodriguez asked the woman to meet him at a motel where he tried to have sex with her, according to the lawsuit; when she refused, he covered her mouth and held her at gunpoint while forcing himself on her. Jane Doe alleges she became pregnant by Rodriguez in 2007, 2009, and in 2013. Each time she had an abortion, she says, and Rodriguez paid for only one.

The lawsuit states that he made the woman perform lewd sexual acts and “abhorrent sexual behavior” where he referred to himself as the “wolf” and routinely threatened to murder her and her family.  

At one point around 2010, the suit alleges, Rodriguez’s superiors became suspicious of his treatment of immigrants. Jane Doe was called into the ICE office where agents told her not to have contact with any officers outside of the office or outside of typical business hours. Rodriguez continued to contact and harass the woman, according to the lawsuit. 

In 2014, the woman was so scared of Rodriguez that at one point he called her demanding sex. She says she was so terrified she fell off a ladder after hanging up. She seriously injured her neck, back, and ribs which required surgery. 

The woman finally came forward when her father began to fear his own deportation. While filing for his asylum, she told her story, and an agent told her to consult an attorney. 

This isn’t the first time ICE agents have been accused of sexual abuse.

An ICE detention center said it was not responsible if staff abused detainees. In 2014, a 19-year-old asylum seeker from Honduras was staying at a Pennsylvania detention center with her 3-year-old son. The woman, known as “E.D.” was sexually assaulted by a guard. 

“I didn’t know how to refuse because he told me that I was going to be deported,” she told the New York Times. “I was at a jail and he was a migration officer. It’s like they order you to do something and you have to do it.” 

According to the ACLU, the employee pled guilty to “criminal institutional sexual assault under Pennsylvania law,” however the “defendants contend that they should not be liable for any constitutional violations.” The defendants claimed that the sexual abuse was “consensual” because it occurred in an immigration detention center, not a jail or prison. 

E.D. is among thousands of immigrants who claim they were sexually abused while in ICE custody over the last 10 years. ICE has reported 1,310 claims of sexual abuse against detainees between 2013 and 2017. Watchdog groups estimate that sexual abuse actually occurs at much higher rates. 

“Rather than meaningfully addressing these endemic problems in immigration detention, the Trump administration continues to aggressively target immigrants and asylum seekers by stripping away legal protections, ramping up enforcement, and expanding immigration detention,” according to the ACLU. 

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Daisy Coleman, The High School Sexual Assault Survivor Featured In A Netflix Documentary, Has Died By Suicide

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Daisy Coleman, The High School Sexual Assault Survivor Featured In A Netflix Documentary, Has Died By Suicide

Netflix

In 2016, Netflix debuted the heartwrenching documentary Audrie & Daisy a film that examined the tragic experiences of two high school students. Audrie Pott and Daisy Coleman were two teens at the time of their sexual assaults. Both women were subjected to cyberbullying and abuse after their assaults and forced to heal with little support. But soon after her assault, Audrie Pott was driven to suicide by hanging.

The film showed that Coleman also struggled with suicide ideation after the assault.

Four years after the film’s debut, Coleman (who had become a sexual assault victim advocate) has died by suicide.

In a post to her Facebook page on Tuesday, Coleman’s mother shared the news: “My daughter Catherine Daisy Coleman committed suicide tonight,” Melinda Coleman wrote. “If you saw crazy messages and posts it was because I called the police to check on her. She was my best friend and amazing daughter. I think she had to make it seem like I could live without her. I can’t. I wish I could have taken the pain from her! She never recovered from what those boys did to her and it’s just not fair. My baby girl is gone.”

At the time of her assault, Coleman was 14 years old. She was sexually assaulted by a high schooler named Matthew Barnett and was dumped outside of her home wearing only a T-shirt in the dead of winter. The documentary film said Coleman had been left behind in sub-freezing temperatures and that her hair had stuck to the ground.

Barnett was eventually subjected to a felony sexual assault charge for what he did to Coleman but the charge was later dropped.

After, Coleman became a target for bullying.

Filmmakers followed Coleman for two years watching the ways in which Coleman and members of her family were subjected to the trauma of her assault.

“I definitely feel like people have certain views and perceptions about me and about cases like this because they’re uneducated,” then-19-year-old Coleman told People in a 2017 interview. “That’s exactly why I’m going out and trying to educate people on what’s going on in our society.”

Speaking about her experience, Coleman said that she didn’t hold any animosity against her attacker. “I honestly don’t have any vindictive feelings toward him,” Coleman told People. “I feel like all of that negativity that he put onto me was passed down to him at one point, so I felt the need to stop that kind of transaction of negativity and hate… I went through a lot of years of self-loathing and asking myself, Why me? So much ‘woe is me’… I just decided one day that I was done being negative about it. I needed to forgive myself for what happened.”

In 2017, Coleman worked to help others from being subjected to sexual violence for the national campaign SafeBAE — Safe Before Anyone Else.

If you or someone you know might be considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Or text “STRENGTH” to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.

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The Trump Administration Raised Fees For Immigration Cases Including For Refugees

Things That Matter

The Trump Administration Raised Fees For Immigration Cases Including For Refugees

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

In its continuing campaign against immigrants and refugees, the Trump administration has increased the costs of immigration proceedings – in some instances by more than 80%. These new fees could make the cost of seeking asylum protection in the U.S. or becoming a citizen out of reach for tens of thousands of immigrants.

The new fees are seen as little more than an additional tool used by the administration to further limit immigration to the U.S. and make life more difficult for those seeking to call the U.S. homes.

The Trump administration announced major changes to the fees charged for immigration proceedings.

On Friday, the Trump administration announced it would dramatically increase the fees for U.S. immigration services on everything from refugee asylum requests to naturalization services. The new fee structure, released by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), is expected to take effect on October 2.

The new fees are seen as little more than an additional tool used by the administration to further limit immigration to the U.S. and make life more difficult for those seeking to call the U.S. homes. It will also have an outsized impact on business that hire foreign workers.

The agency, which has closed offices and suspended most services during the pandemic, has said it faces a significant revenue shortfall that could trigger furloughs. Earlier this year, the agency requested $1.2 billion in emergency funds from Congress.

The U.S. will now be one of just a few countries that actually charge refugees to file asylum requests.

Credit: Gregory Bull / Getty Images

With the new fee charged to refugees and asylum seekers, the U.S. will become one of just four countries that actually charge for this application. The new fee for asylum is a blatant attack on the most vulnerable among us and is another way for the administration to target and restrict protections for those fleeing their home countries.

The $50 application fee for asylum applications now puts the U.S. in the same ranks as Iran, Fiji, and Australia. The new rule would also raise the cost for an asylum applicant to apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) from the current zero to $490, one of many policy changes to discourage potential asylum applicants. DHS commented, “DHS does not believe that the EAD fee is unduly burdensome for asylum seekers.”

However, one asylum officer who spoke with BuzzFeed News on condition of anonymity said the fee was discouraging.

“The larger problem is that humanitarian applications by their nature should be free,” the officer said. “The idea of charging people who are fleeing — and not helping if they don’t pay up — is disgusting.”

Another asylum officer said it will cost the agency more to collect the fee than $50, “which doesn’t come close to covering the cost of adjudicating an asylum application.”

Other fees – from green card replacements to citizenship applications – will also be going up.

The new fee changes impact several categories of services offered by USCIS that will impact our community. Two of the most common types of visas issued by the agency (L and H-1B visas) will increase by 75% and 21% respectively.

The L visa – which is used for short term work in the U.S. – will increase from $460 to $805. The fee for an H-1B petition (which is used by employers to hire highly-skilled workers) will rise from $460 to $555.

For season workers in the U.S., of which there are hundreds of thousands, their fees will also increase by almost 50%. The current fee for these visas is $460 but the H-2A (season agricultural) will rise to $850 and the H-2B (seasonal non-agricultural) will rise to $715.

USCIS would increase the cost of the application (N-400) to become a U.S. citizen by more than 80%, rising from $640 to $1,160 (for online filings, although a separate $85 biometrics fee would be eliminated). 

The new increased fees come as the agency faces a financial crisis that many say are of its own making.

Many are concerned about the timing of these fee increases because USCIS is in the midst of historic mismanagement, that has face the agency from a substantial surplus to a deficit so severe USCIS has requested a $1.2 billion bailout from Congress.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, chair of the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, held a July 29, 2020, oversight hearing that helped explain how the Trump administration caused the financial problems at USCIS through its policy choices on immigration.

“Under the Trump Administration, USCIS has issued a flurry of policies that make its case adjudications more complicated, which reduces the agency’s efficiency and requires more staff to complete fewer cases,” testified Doug Rand, a founder of Boundless Immigration and a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists. “There are dozens if not hundreds of such policies.” 

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