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US government report reveals sexual abuse in immigration detentions

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) [official website] issued [press release] a report [text, PDF] on Wednesday entitled "Additional Actions Could Strengthen DHS Efforts to Address Sexual Abuse." The GAO report was initiated in part by government documents that found there were hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse and assault in immigration detention over several years that were not properly investigated in compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) [text, PDF]. US Immigration Customs and Enforcement's (ICE) [official website] data system described 215 allegations of sexual abuse and assault in facilities from October 2010 through March 2013. The study covered 157 of approximately 250 facilities, finding that most facilities were compliant with sexual abuse and assault prevention and intervention (SAAPI) provisions. Recommendations were that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website]: (1) develop additional controls to ensure all allegations are reported to headquarters, (2) coordinate OIG access to hotline connectivity data, (3) document and maintain reliable information on detention standards, and (4) develop a process for performing oversight of SAAPI provisions consistently across facilities.

Advocacy groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] have been calling on the DHS to investigate its treatment of immigrant detainees. In 2012 the ACLU issued a complaint regarding abuse of power, excessive force, coercion, and unlawful confiscation of property by Customs and Border Protection at ports of entry along the US-Mexico border. In 2011 the ACLU uncovered documents that found there were hundreds of allegations of sexual abuse and assault in immigration detention. In 2003 Congress enacted [DOJ backgrounder] PREA to "provide for the analysis of the incidence and effects of prison rape in Federal, State, and local institutions and to provide information, resources, recommendations and funding to protect individuals from prison rape."

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