Imagine the horror of fleeing persecution in your home country only to find yourself a victim of sexual assault while in the custody of the U.S. government.
The Department of Homeland Security and ICE have consistently downplayed the problem of sexual assault of immigration detainees. And now, the Department of Justice has proposed regulations that would exclude immigration detainees from protection under the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.
This is an unthinkable attempt to deprive a specific and vulnerable group of people from protection against rape and sexual assault. And it comes despite Congress's clear intent to protect all people in government custody from such abuse.
Take action now. Urge President Obama and Attorney General Holder to make sure all immigration detainees have the full protection of the Prison Rape Elimination Act.
Sexual assault in immigration detention is a serious, systemic problem. Since 2007, there have been at least 185 filed complaints of sexual abuse in immigration detention nationwide, and countless other incidents have gone unreported. Detainees in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody face unique obstacles to reporting abuse, including language and cultural barriers, fear of reprisal by abusers, and threat of deportation.
In 2003 a Republican-controlled Congress unanimously passed PREA to set standards for preventing, detecting and responding to sexual abuse that occurs while individuals are in government custody. Earlier this year the Department of Justice (DOJ) surprisingly proposed regulations that would exclude immigration detainees from PREA coverage, thereby circumventing Congress's intent to protect all people in government custody from sexual assault.
I agree with the many organizations that criticized the proposed DOJ rule during the public comment period. As your administration finalizes its rule implementing PREA, I urge you to put an end to sexual assault in immigration custody.
Please ensure that the final DOJ rule implementing PREA protects all persons in custody, including immigration detainees.