A 24-page report (Detained and at Risk Immigration Detention.pdf) issued on August 25 by Human Rights Watch describes documented incidents of sexual abuse committed against people detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The report calls for the government to go beyond policy and operation standard changes and issue “binding legal regulations” that would serve to prevent these incidents from happening.
In August 19, a contracted guard was arrested for sexually abusing several female detainees at the T. Don Hutto immigration facility in Taylor, Texas. The guard allegedly groped female prisoners while he was transporting them to airports and bus stations in order to be deported. The guard faces three counts of official oppression and two counts of unlawful restraint. (If you want to read a media release by the Williamson County Sheriff, go here: http://tdonhutto.blogspot.com.
Some of the details in the report are a reason for concern. Statistics and data on sexual abuse, assault and harassment against immigration detainees are collected in facilities run by ICE, but virtually no data exists on state and county jails where ICE rents bed space.
Immigrants who are detained do not speak out about incidents of sexual abuse for fear of being deported. The sad thing is that most of them are still deported, leaving our country without reporting crimes committed against them. Christians should be deeply concerned about these abuses, especially as so little data is known and these incidents may very well be the tip of the iceberg, as Human Rights Watch reports.
Immigrants who cross our borders in order to find work and end up being detained are human beings made in the image of God. They must be treated with dignity and must be protected against crimes perpetrated against them as they await deportation in our federal jails. These people find themselves in a very vulnerable state and are unable to defend themselves for fear that something even worse will happen to them.
Human Rights Watch includes key recommendations to ICE, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Congress. One of them is especially noteworthy: “to require detention centers to facilitate on-site access for local community providers of support services for sexual assault survivors.” If these recommendations ever translate into policy changes, pastors and laypeople who minister to the victims of sexual abuse would have an open door to connect with these victims and show them the love of Christ.
We pray that the door opens.
We value your input and suggestions.
Your comments and recommended resources are welcome in the comments box below.