Staggering number of Caribbean immigrants sexually abused in detention centers

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said that that a staggering number of Caribbean and other immigrants are being sexually abused at US federal detention centers. The ACLU said documents obtained from the federal government reveal that immigrants reported being sexually abused at the centers nearly 200 times since 2007.

“It confirmed my worst fears to see how widespread and nationwide this is. Just the sheer number of allegations really points to a systemic and widespread problem,” said David Shapiro, staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project.

“These are civil detainees who are being held pending decisions regarding their right to remain in the United States. In many cases they’re seeking asylum,” he added.

According to Shapiro, last April, an immigrant detained at New Jersey’s Hudson County Correctional Facility reported being stripped naked and sprayed in the genitals with pepper spray.

He, however, said 56 of the 185 allegations were made in Texas, more than in any other state.

The ACLU, which obtained the documents through the Freedom of Information Act, filed a class-action suit on Wednesday on behalf of three immigrant women who say a Taylor, Texas, guard sexually assaulted them.

The guard, Donald Dunn, pleaded guilty to official oppression and unlawful restraint in the assaults of five women while working at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center.

All three of the ACLU’s plaintiffs had fled sexual assault, domestic violence or persecution in their unidentified home countries and were seeking asylum in the US, the group said.

The suit also names Dunn’s supervisor, three Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials, the Texas county of Williamson and the Corrections Corporation of America, a private prison company that manages the facility.

“While ICE does not comment specifically on pending litigation, the agency maintains a strict zero tolerance policy for any kind of abusive or inappropriate behavior and requires all contractors working with the agency to adhere to this policy,” said ICE spokeswoman Gillian Christensen.

Shapiro said that the documents the ACLU recovered may just be the “tip of the iceberg.”

“I shudder to think how many are not reported,” he said.

Earlier this week, ICE Director John Morton said his agency deported nearly 400,000 immigrants during the fiscal year that ended in September, the largest number of removals in the agency’s history.

He said about 55 per cent of those deported had felony or misdemeanor convictions, stating that the number of those convicted of crimes was up 89 per cent from 2008.

Morton said among the 396,906 immigrants deported were more than 1,000 convicted of homicide.

He said 5,800 were sexual offenders, and about 80,000 were convicted of drug related crimes or driving under the influence. Last year, he said the total was about 393,000.

“This comes down to focusing our resources as best we can on our priorities,” the ICE told reporters in Washington.

“We continue to hope for comprehensive immigration reform at a national level, working with the Congress, but in the meantime, we work with the resources we have, under the laws we have,” he added.

For the original report go to http://www.antiguaobserver.com/?p=66181

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