AUSTIN — Laura, an immigrant woman from El Salvador, has been detained at the T. Don Hutto immigration detention center since May 2017. In November Laura came forward as a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a female CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America) detention guard. The abuse was witnessed by other guards who worked in the same facility. Those officials were forced out when they attempted to come forward with information about another incident of sexual abuse in the facility. Since the allegations were brought forward, Laura has cooperated with ICE’s investigators, as well as officials from the Williamson County Sheriff’s office. “Despite our best efforts we have yet to be updated as to the real status of this investigation. As far we know, these allegations have just been swept under the rug,” said Bob Libal, executive director at Grassroots Leadership.
Laura’s abuser is still working as a CoreCivic (CCA) guard in the same facility where Laura is detained. On Friday, January 11th, Laura attempted to take her own life by taking 51 pain pills that were left in her possession by medical staff. After her attempt, ICE and CoreCivic (CCA) guards neglected to provide medical treatment until several hours later. Laura was returned to Hutto and placed in solitary confinement, only being removed thanks to community pressure and congressional involvement.
“I feel very desperate because I tried to report the abuse from ICE and facility officials, but they continue to psychologically abuse me through intimidation. I do not feel safe or secure. I am not receiving the medical treatment or help I need,” said Laura Monterrosa in a statement Sunday.
“This case is heartwrenching; we learned from Laura that she attempted to kill herself just after learning that she was going to be punished because she refused to eat in the same cafeteria where her abuser is now assigned.” said Claudia Muñoz, immigration programs director at Grassroots Leadership. “It’s just inhumane to force this victim of sexual abuse to have to relive that abuse everyday by being forced to confront her abuser over and over again. Laura can’t escape this pain, she can’t get the treatment she needs.”
Advocates are now calling on Sen. John Cornyn to look into the allegations of sexual abuse at the Hutto Detention Center. “There are enough eyes looking at this that something should have happened already to make sure that Laura is in a safe place. No victim of sexual abuse should be forced to live with their abuser,” said Bethany Carson, immigration researcher and organizer at Grassroots Leadership. “We are asking Sen. Cornyn in the name of the rule of law to ask that ICE immediately release Laura pending this investigation.”
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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.
Bethany Carson, firstname.lastname@example.org, 512-499-8111
Claudia Muñoz, email@example.com, 512-499-8111