Guards at an El Paso immigrant detention center have been accused of sexually assaulting detainees and engaging in a “pattern and practice” of abuse.
The alleged victims claim ICE officers assaulted them in security camera blind spots at the El Paso Processing Center (EPPC), offered money in exchange for sexual favors, and one male immigrant was reportedly housed in solitary confinement after complaining about the harassment.
The women spoke out despite being told by officers as high-ranking as a lieutenant that no one would believe their allegations, said Linda Corchado, director of legal services for Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, which filed the complaint.
“Mapping out systemic patterns of abuse helps us all see that this is not singular, that in fact there are many more detained women who have become victimized by men in power,” Corchado told BuzzFeed News. “I hope that many more women will speak out. Without them and their stories, how can we dismantle a system that has destroyed their lives? We need them.”
Corchado said one of the women (identified as Jane Doe 1 in the complaint) is set to be deported next week and fears her alleged abusers will not be held accountable.
“Officer [redacted] reportedly told her that no one would believe her and that there was no evidence of the assault since he had assaulted her in a camera blind spot,” the complaint states.
Jane Doe 1 and two other women claim they were kissed, groped and touched inappropriately by ICE officials, according to the complaint. The abuse allegations were first reported by ProPublica.
A spokesperson for ICE wrote in an email to the outlet that the agency has “zero tolerance for any form of sexual abuse or assault against individuals in the agency’s custody and takes very seriously all allegations of employee misconduct,” the email said.
“When substantiated, appropriate action is taken,” ICE said.
The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) are reportedly investigating the complaint.
Since 2010, there have been nearly 15,000 allegations of sexual and physical abuse levied against ICE, per ProPublica.
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