“Perhaps the worst part of this immensely distressing story is how unexceptional it is.”
There is abundant evidence that rape is a systemic problem in our immigration detention facilities—for women, for men, and, as the Women’s Refugee Commission has documented, for children. In 2010, Human Rights Watch released a report based on over fifty known incidents and allegations of sexual abuse of immigration detainees. The American Civil Liberties Union has discovered 185 government reports of such allegations since 2007, and a senior ACLU staff attorney says this is only “the tip of the iceberg.” Based on studies by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the US government estimates that over 216,600 people are sexually abused in its prisons, jails, and juvenile detention facilities every year. Such comprehensive data do not exist for DHS facilities, and many fewer people are held in immigration detention than in prisons and jails. However, there is good reason to believe that, proportionally, the rates of abuse may be even higher for immigrants in government custody than for prisoners.
“It would be hard to imagine a greater betrayal of the ideals and origins of a nation of immigrants than systemic abuse of this kind, perpetrated as it usually is by agents of the government.”