ICE Deported Key Witness In Sexual Assault Probe At El Paso Detention Center
On Monday, the U.S. government deported a key witness in an ongoing investigation into sexual assault and harassment allegations at an immigrant detention center in El Paso, Texas, according to the witness’ attorney.
The Texas Tribune reported that the “35-year-old woman has been held in the facility, which is overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, for about a year and told lawyers about a ‘pattern and practice’ of abuse there, including that guards systematically assaulted her and other detainees in areas that were not visible to security cameras.”
Several guards “forcibly” kissed her, and at least one touched her intimate parts, often as she was walking back from the medical unit to her barrack, according to her complaint filed with law enforcement agencies.
“If she behaved,” she said one guard told her, “he would help her be released.”
According to the report, “The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General launched an investigation into the accusations after ProPublica and The Texas Tribune first reported them last month. At least two more women have since come forward with similar allegations of assault.”
The IG requested that the woman not be deported and she was interviewed extensively by the FBI, The Tribune reported, adding: “Her attorneys also sent a complaint to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas and the El Paso County District Attorney’s Office, warning of a potential criminal investigation.”
However, after her “lawyers filed a habeas petition in federal court asking that the woman be freed on supervised release and held in an immigrant shelter in El Paso” last week, claiming guards and inmates began making intimidating comments after her allegations, the DHS inspector general reversed course and said she could be deported.
Within hours, she had been sent back even though she says she fears persecution from drug cartels there. A high-ranking cartel member sexually assaulted her and threatened her after she reported the attack to police, according to statements she gave the U.S. government.