DOWNEY − On the eve of an expected announcement by President Obama on immigration reform, members of the Congressional Women’s Working Group on Immigration Reform, led by the group’s chair, Downey Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), called for an independent investigation of allegations of sexual abuse of detained immigrant mothers in a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. They also reiterated their belief that detention in “prison-like conditions” is inappropriate for families.
The alleged sexual abuses, which included reports that women may have been groped in the presence of children, occurred at the Karnes County Family Residential Center in Karnes County, Texas – a contract detention center.
Many of the women currently held in the federal government’s new family detention centers fled to the United States to escape sexual violence in Central America – a region including countries with some of the highest rates of violence against women in the world, Congress members said.
The U.S. immigration policies which have resulted in the incarceration of these women and their young children “are consistent with the general failure of our broken immigration system to respect the basic rights and needs of vulnerable immigrant women,” the Congress members alleged.
“It’s tragic and completely unacceptable that women who fled their homes to escape sexual assault and domestic violence have suffered abuse in our government’s custody,” said Roybal-Allard. “Detention is inappropriate in most cases for families and it doesn’t make sense to incarcerate women who are survivors of sexual or domestic violence. Young mothers and rape victims do not pose a threat to our national security and we should stop treating them like dangerous criminals.
“We can address the humanitarian situation at our border without endangering these vulnerable women or compromising our most basic American values.”
“No one in federal custody should ever have to fear for their human rights,” said Congresswoman Gwen Moore (WI-04). “The severity of these allegations call for swift action for an independent investigation. If there is any truth to these troubling accusations, we must do everything in our power to reestablish an institutional culture that rejects abuse in all its forms.
“Our country prides itself in being a global leader in human rights but if we are to keep this honorable title, we must address these concerns in a transparent and expedient manner.”
Published: Nov. 20, 2014 - Volume 13 - Issue 32