(GEORGETOWN, Texas) — At a press conference on Monday morning, advocates spoke outside Williamson County Sheriff's Office to denounce the agency’s failure to conduct an investigation of sexual assault complaints filed by women detained at Hutto Detention Center.
Since coming forward publicly with her complaint against months-long sexual assault on November 9, Laura has encouraged a number of people to speak out against abuses in the detention system. “Laura has a whole community behind her asking for release because we know that women who are victims of sexual abuse should be believed, not retaliated against,” Claudia Muñoz, immigration programs director at Grassroots Leadership said.
The press conference was attended by Williamson County community members, volunteers with Grassroots Leadership’s Hutto Visitation Program, and immigrant advocates concerned by sexual assault in detention. “This has been going on for a long time, since I was detained in 2009. The only thing that has changed is Laura’s courage to speak up while she is still detained,” said Sulma Franco, organizer with the Austin Sanctuary Network.
Laura has remained incarcerated at Hutto Detention Center with her abuser where she has received no communication from Williamson County about the progress of the investigation. “I need justice,” she said to a staff member of Grassroots Leadership as she faces increasing retaliation.
Last week, organizers with Grassroots Leadership received letters from women who have experienced sexual abuse and harassment, as well as a CoreCivic staff member who witnessed this abuse.“ Just this weekend, we received an email from a whistleblower also inspired by Laura who confirmed pervasive issues of sexual abuse at Hutto and gave us additional names of guards who have abused their power and position to sexually assault or take advantage of vulnerable women,” said Bethany Carson, immigration organizer at Grassroots Leadership.
The latest statement from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to Rewire said that the agency conducted an investigation in collaboration with Williamson County and found Monterrosa’s claims “unsubstantiated,” while Williamson County remained silent on this issue. “The only time Williamson County reached out to us was this past Friday, after knowing about Laura’s complaint for over three weeks. In a phone conversation, they admitted they did not pursue the investigation,” Muñoz said. On the heels of revealing ICE’s lie to cover up the abuse, Williamson County officials stated the FBI has intervened to take charge of the investigation.
Advocates with Grassroots Leadership shared the following statement:
“We're here today because Williamson County has chosen to protect ICE over the women at Hutto. Ever since Williamson County became involved they have chosen to ignore women speaking out and their stories. Their failure has shown that the only true protection women have inside detention is their voices and each other.
Williamson County Sheriff's Office renounced their local jurisdiction by collaborating with ICE. We received confirmation that the FBI has stepped in and taken over this investigation so we are here today to say shame on you, Williamson County, for protecting ICE. Most importantly, we are here in recognition that Laura should be released immediately because we know that ICE, CoreCivic, and Williamson County are working together against her. ICE has the power to release her today.”
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Grassroots Leadership is an Austin, Texas-based national organization that works to end prison profiteering and reduce reliance on criminalization and detention through direct action, organizing, research, and public education.
Claudia Muñoz, firstname.lastname@example.org, (512) 499-8111