(AUSTIN, Texas) — This week, two additional women joined Laura Monterrosa in speaking out about sexual abuse at Hutto. One woman currently detained in Laredo, “Ana”, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of further retaliation said in a visit with Grassroots Leadership staff:
“I was sexually harassed for months by a guard who worked in the recreation area at Hutto. The guard asked me about my sexuality in various occasions and inappropriately stared at me when I was in her area. She also told me that we were going to be together one day. I was harassed every time I was around her, but I was scared of saying anything for fear that doing so may negatively impact my case. After after other guards noticed the harassment, they encouraged me to file a report, but nothing happened to the guard and I was transferred in retaliation. I know this happened to at least another woman who was deported shortly after I arrived there. CoreCivic and ICE do everything in their power to cover these types of situations and make sure everything stays internally, they think they are untouchable”
After making an internal written complaint about this abuse at the encouragement of two former guards, “Ana” was confronted by two ICE investigators who told her she was lying, and subsequently transferred to Laredo a few days after she filed the complaint.
Another woman, “Esmeralda”, currently detained at the Hutto Detention Center, wrote an anonymous letter [English translation here] received by Grassroots Leadership staff expressing a fear of sexual assault by the same guard named by “Ana” in her statement.
“When I go out to recreation I feel the gaze over me of an official known as Miss [Redacted]. I do zumba exercises and she’s always there close by, with her gazes over me that make me feel uncomfortable. She almost always tries to draw conversation out of me and I almost always ignore her. When she says something to me I answer with a yes or with a no, I do everything possible to get far away from her. I fear greatly for my safety, I don’t want the same thing to happen to me as has happened to other people in this place.”
She states in her letter that she wishes to remain anonymous because she fears that ICE would retaliate in a way that would impact her immigration case.
These two new testimonies shed light on a wider issue of sexual assault and abuse of power by CCA guards at Hutto, as firsthand accounts implicating a second guard in sexual misconduct towards detained women. They also provide additional weight to the sexual assault report made by Laura Monterrosa two weeks ago as the guard named as the abuser by “Ana” and “Esmeralda” was one of the guards implicated in Ms. Monterrosa’s original letter.
Advocates called for Laura Monterrosa’s immediate release as more proof surfaces that bolsters her report that she was sexually assaulted over a period of months by a guard still employed at the detention center.
“It is unconscionable to continue to lock up Laura with her abuser for one more day. As more women come forward with their experiences of abuse following Laura’s brave example, she faces increasing retaliation from CCA and ICE officials inside,” said Bethany Carson, immigration researcher and organizer at Grassroots Leadership. “She must be released immediately to pursue her complaint outside of detention where she can live in peace and recover from this new trauma she experienced at the hands of those responsible for ensuring her safety while seeking refuge from the violence she fled in El Salvador.”
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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works for a more just society where prison profiteering, mass incarceration, deportation and criminalization are things of the past.
Claudia Muñoz, firstname.lastname@example.org, 512-910-1759
Bethany Carson, email@example.com, 512-499-8111