More than 45 Congressional Representatives Call for Investigation Into Sexual Abuse at T. Don Hutto Immigrant Detention Center

February 26, 2018

Representatives highlight case of Laura Monterrosa, who has spoken out about sexual assault at the facility, and remains in detention despite active FBI investigation

AUSTIN — Today, more than 45 Congressional representatives, led by Representative Lloyd Doggett and Joaquin Castro from Texas, sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security, calling for an investigation into the treatment of sexual abuse allegations at Texas detention centers and an expedited audit to assess compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center.

The letter expresses concern regarding the case of Laura Monterrosa, who remains detained at the facility and has faced escalating retaliation including solitary confinement and other threats from officials if she does not retract her testimony of the abuse.

"In this time of national reckoning with sexual assault and harassment, we must ensure that justice is served to those like Laura Monterrosa, who has courageously spoken out about sexual abuse inside the for-profit T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor, Texas. No one should be subject to the appalling treatment that Laura has experienced while detained for nine months. We applaud these Congressional representatives for taking leadership on this issue.  ICE must act swiftly to address the serious issues raised in this letter, and should release Ms. Monterrosa immediately while the federal criminal investigation into her assault continues," said Bob Libal, executive director at Grassroots Leadership.

Nationally, less than 1 percent of sexual assault allegations made inside of immigrant detention are investigated. Multiple women detained at T. Don Hutto have come forward with testimonies of sexual abuse and harassment in recent months. The facility has a history of sexual abuse, including the conviction of a guard for the sexual assault of at least 8 women on the way to the airport for deportation.

“With Hutto’s documented history of sexual abuse, it is a travesty that it has not undergone a single PREA audit to date. We have observed numerous violations in the way Laura and other women have been treated when they have come forward with reports of sexual abuse,” said Sofia Casini, immigration programs coordinator at Grassroots Leadership. “It is vital that lawmakers intervene to provide this oversight where ICE has proven they would rather cover up these abuses than protect some of the most vulnerable survivors of sexual assault in our society."

The full text of the sign on letter can be viewed here.

“Complaints of sexual abuse by guards and subsequent retaliation by ICE following victim grievances are disturbing and unacceptable,” said Congressman Doggett. “Many of these victims are refugees seeking asylum, fleeing prior traumatic experiences. Basic human decency requires that they not be abused here. Our questions are designed to ensure some accountability for these disturbing allegations of sexual and physical abuse. ICE should respect and protect immigrants’ human rights.”

“Allegations of sexual harassment at ICE and the ways in which the agency refuses to deal with it are deeply disturbing. Sexual harassment, assault, and abuse of any magnitude is unacceptable, especially for vulnerable immigrants who, oftentimes, are already fleeing traumatic circumstances,” said Congressman Castro. “That’s why it is imperative to investigate the handling of these complaints and audit ICE’s compliance with the law. ICE has a duty to care for all individuals in their charge, and lawmakers must hold them accountable to carrying out this mission.”

This letter was endorsed by endorsed by Grassroots Leadership, ACLU, Human Rights Watch, United We Dream, Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), Detention Watch Network, RAICES, National Immigrant Justice Center, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, National Center for Transgender Equality, and Pangea Legal Services, Immigration Equality Action Fund, Mexican American Legislative Caucus (Texas State Legislature), and the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.

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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.