ICE Just Deported A Key Witness in A Sexual Assault Investigation Against Them
According to the Texas Tribune, the key witness in the ongoing sexual assault investigation at an ICE detention center has been deported. She was previously being held at a Customs Enforcement detention center in El Paso, Texas.
While the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General initially forbid ICE from deporting her, the office apparently reversed their decision on Monday. According to reports, the office determined that “further interviews could be done over the phone”.
According to previous reports, the unidentified 35-year-old woman alleged that guards had “forcibly kissed” her and touched her on the private parts.
Documents, which were extensively reported on by ProPublica, described the harassment as a “pattern and practice” at this particular detention center.
The woman also alleges that the guards would attempt to extort sexual favors from her and other detainees when they were returning from the medical unit back to her barrack. One guard allegedly told her that he would help get her released “if she behaved”.
The unnamed woman reported the harrasment to her lawyers who then filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General. The DHS then opened an investigation into the ICE Detention Center in El Paso.
The FBI has, since then, interviewed the woman extensively. According to documents, the woman gave investigators a tour of the facility where she showed them where the alleged harassment took place–in what were identified as security camera “blind spots”.
According to her, the guard told her that if she reported him, “No one would believe her”.
Since the woman made these accusations, at least two other women at the same detention center came forward with similar claims. One of these women has already been deported.
According to previous reports, the unnamed woman accusing ICE officials of sexual assault was being held at the El Paso detention center for a drug-related crime and illegally entering the country. She claims she initially fled Mexico after a cartel member sexually assaulted and threatened her.
While ICE says that they have “zero tolerance for any form of sexual abuse or assault against individuals in the agency’s custody”, the reality is much bleaker.
According to the advocacy group Freedom for Immigrants, ICE has had 14,700 complaints filed against them between 2010 and 2016 alleging sexual and/or physical abuse.
In the most recent statistics available, ICE reported 374 formal accusations of sexual assault in 2018. Forty-eight of those were substantiated by the agency and 29 were still pending an investigation. According to Freedom for Immigrants, only a fraction of these complaints are investigated by the Office of Inspector General.
The woman’s lawyer, Linda Corchado, has not been shy about expressing her displeasure over her client’s deportation.
“[The government] allowed their most powerful witness to be deported,” Corchado said. “How can we possibly take this investigation seriously now or ever pretend that it ever was from the outset?”