The Progressive


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For Immediate Release

Shawn Jain, 202-417-7547,

ACLU Comment on GAO Report on Sexual Abuse in Immigration Detention

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


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:

To access today's report, click on the following link:

For more information on sexual assault in immigration detention visit:

The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in 1920 and is our nation's guardian of liberty. The ACLU works in the courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to all people in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.

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