LATINO VOICES

Rape, Sexual Abuse Of Immigrant Detainees Addressed With New DHS Rules

12/07/2012 03:08 pm ET

The Department of Homeland Security submitted new rules Thursday aimed at reducing rape and sexual abuse of immigrant in detention.

The new rules bring immigrants imprisoned in detention centers one step closer to enjoying the same protections against rape and sexual abuse extended to criminal inmates in U.S. jails. The new rules cover how prevention planning, training and education, and how to assess risk of sexual victimization, among other issues.

The White House issued a presidential memorandum in May telling DHS to come up with rules to satisfy the requirements of the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

“Sexual abuse is not an inevitable feature of detention,” the DHS proposal says. “With DHS’s strong commitment, DHS immigration detention and holding facilities can have a culture that promotes safety and refuses to tolerate abuse.”

A PBS Frontline report last year found that undocumented immigrants had filed more than 170 allegations of sexual abuse against detention center guards and staff over the previous four years. The cases rarely resulted in investigations, the report says. According to PBS:

The documents, together with interviews of dozens of detainees, employees, investigators and officials, present a portrait of detainees with few effective recourses if they are victims of crimes while in detention. Many say they face continuous pressure to sign deportation orders. And unlike in the criminal justice system, immigration detainees do not have a guaranteed right of legal representation, and so have difficulty with access to counsel if they have a grievance.

DHS Director Janet Napolitano says the agency has zero tolerance for rape and sexual abuse of detainees.

ICE detains some 400,000 immigrants each year, according to La Opinión.

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