Democratic Members to DHS: Investigate Sexual Abuse in Immigration Centers

73 lawmakers send letter detailing cases of alleged abuse that weren’t investigated

Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., and other Democratic lawmakers want the Department of Homeland Security to investigate claims of sexual abuse at immigration detention facilities. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Democratic members of Congress are demanding the Department of Homeland Security investigate claims of sexual misconduct at immigration facilities.

A letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and acting Immigrations and Customs Enforcement acting Director Thomas Homan was signed by 73 Democratic members of Congress, azcentral.com reported.

The letter said the department failed to investigate reports of sexual abuse.

The Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement said that of the 1,016 incidents of sexual abuse reported from 2014 to 2016, only 24 were investigated.

“DHS and its partner agencies must be held accountable for rampant complaints of sexual assault, abuse and harassment within their immigrant detention facilities,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona.

A statement from ICE said there was “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse. 

“Accusations of alleged unlawful conduct are investigated thoroughly and appropriate action is taken to ensure the safety and security of those involved and others in ICE custody,” the statement said.

Among the instances cited in the letter were an immigrant being interviewed about a rape complaint more than two years after filing it, an immigrant woman being sexually assaulted after being transferred, a child having signs of sexually transmitted diseases but having allegations called unfounded, and a transgender woman being forced to slowly remove each article of clothing during a strip search.

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