The 5th Circuit Court is not holding Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) responsible for sexual assaults reported by eight women who were formerly detained at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas.
According to Courthouse News, the women filed a lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement, claiming that they were sexually assaulted while being transported by a male guard with no female guard present. According to the contract between the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and ICE, a female guard was to be present during transport of female detainees. The women claimed that 22 male guards had completed 77 such transports. Each plaintiff in the case had been granted asylum and was being transported out of detention at the time of assault. The man accused of these assaults, former CCA guard Donald Dunn, was sentenced to 10 months in prison in 2011.
A three-judge panel with the 5th Circuit Court dismissed the claims against ICE, insisting that the contractual violations did not necessarily indicate that the women were in danger. Judge Emilio Garza clearly was not concerned:
"We hold that no clearly established law provides that an official's knowledge of contractual breaches and of the breached provision's aim to prevent sexual assault of detainees, standing alone, amounts to deliberate indifference in violation of a detainee's Fifth Amendment rights, because no controlling authority provides that such breaches are 'facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists.'"
ICE officials claim that they were not aware of sexual assaults on women in detention, and that yet another assault on a woman in her cell did not adequately prove that women in the detention center were in danger.
So, in other words: "There's a contract in place, allegedly, to protect women in detention... but if you choose not to follow the terms of the agreement, and some women get hurt in the process, there will be no consequences."
Why make contracts, CCA and ICE, if you're not going to abide by them?
Judge Garza, why, as someone who studies and practices law, claim that you will uphold the law and human rights if you are not committed to doing so?
Shame on all of you for sanctioning the trauma the private prison industry exacts upon immigrants and for turning a blind eye to sexual assault in your facilities. There's enough shame to go around in a story like this, but for his shady ruling in this case, Judge Emilio Garza is hereby inducted into our Humpday Hall of Shame.
If you want to get involved, Grassroots Leadership coordinates a program of volunteer visitors who visit women held at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center.