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Allegations of sexual abuse at Texas immigration detention center

[JURIST] The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) [official website] on Thursday filed [press release] a complaint [complaint, PDF] with the Department of Homeland Security and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement [official websites] alleging widespread sexual abuse and harassment taking place at the immigration family detention center of Karnes City, Texas. According to the allegations, guards and staff have groped, kissed and requested sexual favors from vulnerable female detainees in the facility, including children. The complaint expressed that such actions violate laws including the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) of 2003, as well as the DHS Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Sexual Abuse and Assault in Confinement Facilities [texts, PDF]. MALDEF demanded an immediate investigation and a swift response to this problem.

There have been many recent developments surrounding US immigration law [JURIST backgrounder], which has been a controversial subject over the past several years. In June the Obama administration [official website] announced that it would boost the ranks of immigration judges, lawyers and asylum officers [JURIST report] to decrease the flow of undocumented children into the country. The decision was prompted in part by a US Supreme Court [official website] ruling earlier that month, which held that a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act [text] does not automatically grant relief [JURIST report] to all aliens who qualify as "child" derivative beneficiaries at the time a visa petition is filed but age out of qualification by the time the visa becomes available to the primary beneficiary. In April the US Department of Justice [official website] released statistics [JURIST report] that show a steady decline in new deportation cases brought by the Obama administration in US immigration courts over the last five years, and that more judges have begun ruling against deportations. In November Obama issued a memorandum [JURIST report] giving US Citizenship and Immigration Services [official website] the authority to "parole in place" the children, spouses and parents of active duty members of the armed forces, the selected reserve of the ready reserve and former members thereof. In October Obama signed into law [JURIST report] a bill granting special immigration status to Iraqis who have aided US forces.

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