Things That Matter

Woman Alleges She And Two Other Women In ICE Custody Were Raped Hours Before Being Released And Deported

The United States continues to detain migrants and refugees in detention centers across the country, despite a global health crisis that poses an immense risk to detainees. However, along with the threat of Covid-19 infection – longstanding abuses such as sexual assaults continue to happen inside detention centers.

One brave woman has come forward with her story about a sexual assault that happened at a detention facility outside Houston, Texas.

A federal lawsuit alleges that three women were sexually assaulted hours before being deported back to Mexico.

In a federal lawsuit that was filed on Wednesday, a Mexican woman, who was being held inside an immigration detention facility, said she was raped along with two other women. The woman, identified as Jane Doe in the lawsuit, is suing CoreCivic – a major private prison company that operates several ICE detention facilities across the U.S.

While in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, the plaintiff said she and two other women were taken from their dorms and placed inside a dark small room. Around midnight, three men in street wear entered the cell and sexually assaulted all of the women. The attackers hit the women in the face, used brutal force and raped each of them.

Hours later, all three of the victims were put on buses and deported back to Mexico – without even being given the chance to shower after the attack.

“She was in a very vulnerable position,” said the plaintiff’s lawyer, Michelle Simpson Tuegel. “I don’t think by chance that these women were targeted on the eve of deportation, and that she was sexually assaulted right as she was being deported.”

“It wasn’t really a position where she had anyone or could do anything at that point,” Tuegel said. 

The woman said she became pregnant as a result of the rape.

The alleged attack occurred June 1, 2018. The plaintiff released a video statement detailing some of the alleged incident. In it, she reveals that shortly after returning to Mexico, she discovered that she was pregnant.

“I became pregnant as a result of the rape and am now the mother of a girl,” she said in the video. 

Attorney Michelle Simpson Tuegel said that while the plaintiff loves her daughter regardless of how she came into the world, the mother suffered a difficult birth. 

“She conceived a child as a result of this rape and then had a pretty difficult…birth in a rural area of Mexico. She would not have had that, had it not been for this rape,” Simpson Tuegel said. 

Although ICE hasn’t commented on the lawsuit, they have defended the actions of their employees.

Credit: US DHS

ICE said in a statement that it does not comment on pending litigation, but said lack of comment should not be taken as agreement with any of the allegations.

“ICE employees and contractors are held to the highest standard of professional and ethical conduct,” the agency said. “Incidents of misconduct are treated with the utmost seriousness and investigated thoroughly. When substantiated, appropriate action is taken.”

Unfortunately, sexual assault and rape are extremely common in ICE detention centers.

Credit: Sally Whitfield / Getty

According to reporting done by The Intercept, between 2010 and 2017, there were 1,224 complaints involving sexual assault. Perhaps even more startling, is that of these more than 1,200 sexual assault allegations – only 43 were ever investigated.

It’s also important to note the extreme obstacles encountered by those wanting to report assaults – from fear and retaliation to outright lack of resources. These patterns suggest that sexual assault and harassment is ICE detention centers are not only widespread but systemic, enabled by an agency that regularly fails to hold itself accountable.

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Honduran Woman Gave Birth On Bridge Between U.S. And Mexico Border But What Will Happen To Them Next?

Things That Matter

Honduran Woman Gave Birth On Bridge Between U.S. And Mexico Border But What Will Happen To Them Next?

Julio César Aguilar / Getty Images

As the number of parents and children crossing the border continues to increase, driven by violence and poverty in Central America, many are growing desperate while being forced to wait in migrant camps in Mexico. While crossings have not reached the levels seen in previous years, facilities that hold migrants are approaching capacity, which has been reduced because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This is forcing many to check the status of their claims by crossing into the U.S. to speak to border agents. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that more and more women are being forced to give birth in less than ideal situations – putting at risk both the lives of the mother and child.

A migrant woman gave birth on a bridge between U.S.-Mexico border.

According to Mexican border authorities, a Honduran woman gave birth on the Mexican side of the border bridge between Matamoros, Mexico and Brownsville, Texas. The woman was apparently trying to reach the U.S. side, but felt unsteady when she got there and was helped by pedestrians on the Mexican side waiting to cross.

Mexico’s National Immigration Institute said the birth occurred Saturday afternoon on the Ignacio Zaragoza border bridge, also known as “Los Tomates.” It said authorities received an alert from U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials regarding “a woman trying to enter the country improperly.”

It said the woman was taken to a hospital in Matamoros, where she was given free care. Her child will have the right to Mexican citizenship.

Hernández is hardly the first woman to give birth while hoping to cross into the U.S.

Just last month, a woman gave birth along the U.S. side of the Rio Grande. She had just crossed the river and her smugglers were yelling at her to keep moving as U.S. Border Patrol agents arrived. But she couldn’t continue, fell to the ground, and began to give birth.

The mother and her her daughter are safe and in good health. “They treated me well, thank God,” said the woman, who didn’t want her name used because she fears retribution if she’s forced to leave the country, in an interview with ABC News.

“There’s so many women in great danger,” Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, told ABC News. “They must really think before they do what they do and risk the life of their unborn child.”

Like so many other women, Hernández was waiting in Mexico under Trump’s cruel immigration policies.

Hernández was reportedly among about 800 migrants sheltering in an improvised riverside camp while awaiting U.S. hearings on their claims for asylum or visas. Other migrants are waiting in Matamoros, but have rented rooms.

Thousands of other migrants are waiting in other Mexican border cities for a chance to enter the U.S. — some for years. The Trump administration has turned away tens of thousands at legal border crossings, first citing a shortage of space and then telling people to wait for court dates under its “Remain in Mexico” policy.

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The Number Of Migrant Kids Still Separated From Family Rises To 666 As The Search Continues To Find Missing Parents

Things That Matter

The Number Of Migrant Kids Still Separated From Family Rises To 666 As The Search Continues To Find Missing Parents

Loren Elliot / AFP / Getty Images

Despite widespread efforts by an international network of volunteers and lawyers, hundreds of kids remain separated from their parents as a result of Trump’s cruel immigration policies.

Volunteers had been calling hundreds of phone numbers provided by the government and even had been going door to door in several Central American countries in an attempt to locate family members. However, much of that search has been put on hold thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, new information provided by the government indicates that the number of children missing their parents now stands at 666. A number that is growing as more evidence comes to light, despite the fact lawyers have successfully reunited many families.

Lawyers working to reunite children with their parents say that the number of cases is higher than previously thought.

Lawyers who have been working to reunite migrant families separated by Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy at the border now believe the number of separated children for whom they have not been able to find parents is 666, higher than they told a federal judge last month, according to an email obtained by NBC News.

Previously, the lawyers said they could not find the parents of 545 children after they had tried to make contact but had been unsuccessful. But in a new email, lawyers point out that the number is higher because the new group includes those “for whom the government did not provide any phone number.”

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, explained to NBC News that the new number “includes individuals in addition to 545 for whom we got no information from government that would allow meaningful searches but are hopeful the government will now provide with that information.”

However, the work to reunite families continues as a strong pace.

As the administration provided lawyers with additional phone numbers to aid the long-running search, the search continues.

Volunteers have searched for parents by phone and by going door-to-door across Central America, which has been interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee has also established toll-free numbers in the U.S., Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and mailed letters to 1,600 potential families.

According to the committee, it’s believed that the parents of 333 children are currently in the U.S., while parents of the other 295 are believed to be outside the country.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the parents and children are still separated, only that the committee has been unable to locate the parents. The committee has found other family members for 168 of the 628 children whose parents have yet to be located. So progress is being made, regardless of how slow it is.

The family separations were a result of a ‘zero tolerance’ policy pursued by the Trump administration.

Shortly after taking office, Trump made it clear that cruelty would be the focus of his immigration policy. And he quickly followed that promise up with actual policy, instituting a so-called ‘zero tolerance’ policy on the U.S.-Mexico border that led to migrant families being separated.

Prior to the borderwide “zero tolerance” policy, the Trump administration tested family separation in a pilot program in the El Paso sector. The vast majority of the children referenced in the email obtained by NBC News were separated during this pilot program, but the total also includes some children who were separated under zero tolerance.

More than 2,700 children were separated from their parents in June 2018 when U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego ordered an end to the practice under the “zero-tolerance” policy. He ordered them reunited within 30 days. And now here we are more than two years later.

Biden says that he is committed to reuniting all families separated under Trump’s cruel immigration policies.

As president, Joe Biden has committed to reuniting families who were separated under Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy. However, Biden has so far not decided whether separated parents who remain outside the U.S. will be given the opportunity to come to the country to reunite with their children and pursue claims to asylum.

The ACLU wants Biden to allow separated families to return to the United States to be given some kind of legal status.

“We think that’s only fair given what they’ve been put through,” Lee Gelernt, attorney representing parents for the American Civil Liberties Union, told the AP. “We will find the families but we cannot provide the families with the right to return to the United States and give legal status. Only the administration can do that.”

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