Alleged Sexual Abuse at Immigration Detention Facility in Karnes, Texas

Human Rights First called on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to investigate instances of sexual abuse at the Karnes City, Texas family detention center this week, along with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) and other attorneys in Texas.

As detailed in a formal complaint, women held at the facility have reportedly suffered sexual abuse at the hands of facility guards, who allegedly removed them from their sleeping quarters late at night to engage in sexual acts, groped them in front of their children, and promised money or assistance in exchange for sexual favors.

Human Rights First toured the Karnes facility and expressed concerns about detaining mothers and children seeking asylum. Detention undermines access to counsel and putting families in immigration detention can negatively affect children’s health. Families seeking asylum in the United States should not be put in immigration detention, and should not be subjected to policies that deny them bond and release. When detained, asylum seekers should be assessed for release on bond, parole, or alternative monitoring measures based on their individual circumstances.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would not comment publicly on the claims made in the complaint, but released a statement that “ICE remains committed to ensuring all individuals in our custody are held and treated in a save, secure and humane manner.” ICE spokesperson Nina Pruneda said, “Accusations of alleged unlawful conduct are investigated thoroughly and if substantiated, appropriate action is taken.”

While a thorough investigation and “appropriate action” are absolutely necessary, the bottom line is that immigration detention is no place for families with children. There are proven and effective alternatives to detention, and therefore no legitimate reason to hold families in Karnes or any other immigration detention facility.

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Published on October 10, 2014

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