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Congresswoman Escobar Demands Answers About Allegations of Sexual Assault and Harassment at El Paso ICE Facility

“The United States has an obligation to protect migrants in our care. When any allegation is made that details a violation of that standard of care it is our duty to seek the truth and hold violators to account.”

El Paso, Texas, August 24, 2020

Today, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (TX-16) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General (DHS OIG) demanding answers about concerning allegations of sexual assault and harassment raised by current and former detainees at the El Paso Processing Center dating back to November 2019.

The letter, which was sent to DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, ICE Acting Director Matthew Albence, and DHS Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari, cites allegations made in a recent complaint of a pattern and practice of repeated sexual assault and harassment. 

“One detainee alleges three instances of abuse at the hands of an officer – on two such occasions the officer took her to camera blind spots where he forcibly kissed and touched her. Another alleges six incidents of sexual harassment including an officer telling her to engage in sexual activity for necessities like a clean uniform. A third detainee alleges that an officer rubbed his genitals while watching him shower. The complaint also alleges that after two of the victims reported their assault, they experienced retaliation,” Congresswoman Escobar wrote.

She continued, “Since the complaint was filed, three new reports have emerged of such sexual assault, including one from a victim who is currently detained, and another who has already been deported. Because of such retaliation, instances of assault at the El Paso Processing Center may be much higher than reported or alleged.”

In the letter, Escobar also called on DHS to prevent retaliation against survivors, preserve all physical and electronic evidence during the time period in question, release the victims still in custody to a sponsor, and halt their deportation in order to make the victims available to investigators for questioning. 

Congresswoman Escobar concluded the letter by requesting responses to her questions and an immediate telephonic briefing on the status of the investigation being conducted and the steps being taken to prevent retaliation. “The United States has an obligation to protect migrants in our care. When any allegation is made that details a violation of that standard of care it is our duty to seek the truth and hold violators to account,” she wrote.

The full letter can be read here.

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