Lawmakers Make Bipartisan Call for Strong Protections Following GAO Report of Sexual Abuse at Immigration Detention Facilities
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following a GAO report released last week, a bipartisan group of Members of Congress have called on the Obama Administration to put strong regulations in place to prevent sexual abuse and assault against immigrants in federal custody. In a letter to President Barack Obama, the legislators called on the administration to issue the regulations “without further delay” in order to achieve the goals of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003.
“The government has a moral responsibility to ensure the safety of any person under its charge,” said Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), who led the push for the GAO’s investigation with 29 Members of Congress last year. “The pervasive and systematic abuse of detainees held in immigration detention facilities, essentially at the hands of the government, is unconscionable. This urgent matter must be addressed quickly and at the highest possible level.”
The GAO investigation identified problems at facilities around the country, questioned the adequacy of investigations into allegations of sexual assault and abuse, and supports the lawmakers’ recommendation to the President that a single, uniform standard be adopted to protect all immigration detainees around the country from falling victim to sexual assault and abuse:
- The 10 facilities visited by the GAO revealed a troubling disconnect within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its operations across the country as the agency’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) headquarters was never informed by field offices of 40% of the sexual abuse allegations.
- The review details how the absence of a uniform federal standard to address sexual abuse and assault has led to a patchwork of practices in use across ICE’s approximately 250 immigration detention facilities. The review noted that because of this patchwork of practices, ICE could not reliably identify which practice applied to which of its various facilities.
The letter can be viewed by clicking here. In addition to Rep. Quigley, it was signed by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee; Trey Gowdy (R-SC), Chairman of the House Judiciary Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee; Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), former Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Frank Wolf (R-VA), Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), Howard Coble (R-NC), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Jared Polis (D-CO) and Ted Poe (R-TX).