Thousands of Migrants Claim Sex Abuse in ICE Custody

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency says the 1,310 detainee claims of sexual abuse over four years is relatively low, given that close to half a million immigrants flow through its detention system each year. Watchdog groups say the actual number is much higher.

Thousands of migrants say they were sexually abused while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the past 10 years, according to data from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General. ICE has reported 1,310 claims of sexual abuse against detainees from fiscal years 2013 to 2017, the New York Times reports.

Though the agency maintains that this number is relatively low — close to half a million immigrants flow through its detention system each year — watchdog organizations estimate the sexual abuse total to be significantly higher. While national attention is focused on President Trump’s shifting border policies concerning immigrant families and children, abuses inside detention continue to take place. A Times video describes two of the abuse cases. In one, a woman who was released from the T. Don Hutto Residential Detention Center in Texas was placed in a van. She said the driver, a male guard, pulled off the road, grabbed her breasts and put his hands in her pants. In the other, a 19-year-old asylum seeker said she was sexually assaulted by a male guard in a family detention center in Pennsylvania. “I didn’t know how to refuse because he told me that I was going to be deported,” she said. “I was at a jail and he was a migration officer. It’s like they order you to do something and you have to do it.”