ACLU Comment on GAO Report on Sexual Abuse in Immigration Detention

For Immediate Release

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Shawn Jain, 202-417-7547, media@dcaclu.org

ACLU Comment on GAO Report on Sexual Abuse in Immigration Detention

WASHINGTON - The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report today entitled, “Additional Actions Could Strengthen DHS Efforts to Address Sexual Abuse.”

Among the noteworthy report findings are that only 7 percent of 215 allegations of sexual assault in immigration detention facilities from 2010 to 2012 were substantiated, which may suggest insufficiently thorough investigations and that 40 percent of the 70 allegations from 10 facilities that the GAO visited were never actually reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) headquarters by ICE field offices, which presents concerns regarding existing oversight and monitoring mechanisms.

“The GAO report’s troubling findings point to the need for strict implementation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) in all ICE facilities, including the privately run facilities and county jails that hold most immigrants in ICE custody,” said Ruthie Epstein, ACLU policy analyst. “Congress must demand that the Administration release the overdue final PREA rule, which should contain rigorous standards so that allegations of sexual abuse of individual’s in the department’s custody are detected, properly investigated, and most of all, prevented from occurring in the first place.”

The GAO report was initiated in part by government documents obtained by the ACLU in 2011 that found there were hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse and assault in immigration detention over several years that were not properly investigated. Concern was raised at the time by the ACLU that immigration detainees were particularly vulnerable because DHS, which oversees both ICE and Customs and Border Protection immigration detention facilities, then claimed that it was excluded from the mandates of PREA.

Epstein added that robust implementation of ICE’s recent policy directive relating to ICE’s use of solitary confinement is also essential to address the problem of sexual abuse in ICE detention facilities, particularly for LGBT and other vulnerable detainees. The link is below:
ice.gov/doclib/detention-reform/pdf/segregation_directive.pdf

To access today’s report, click on the following link:
gao.gov/assets/660/659145.pdf

A free and independent press is essential to the health of a functioning democracy

For more information on sexual assault in immigration detention visit:
aclu.org/sexual-abuse-immigration-detention

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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