Originally published by The NY Times
It was an early morning in May when Maria was released from the T. Don Hutto Residential Detention Center in Texas. She had been granted bond and was permitted to stay with her brother in Washington D.C. while her asylum case was pending.
After gathering her belongings, she was escorted to a loading area fenced with razor wire and placed into a cage inside a van. The driver was a male guard named Donald Dunn. Shortly after leaving Hutto, Dunn pulled off the road.
He grabbed my breasts â€¦ He put his hands in my pants and he touched my private parts, she said. He touched me again inside the van, and my hands were tied. And he started masturbating.
In 2014, a 19-year-old asylum seeker, E.D., was staying in a family detention center in Pennsylvania with her 3-year-old son. A few months into her seven-month stay, she was sexually assaulted by a male guard. 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.
Our video follows Maria and E.D., who are among the thousands of migrants who have said 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. Both were seeking asylum in the United States.
ICE has reported 1,310 claims of sexual abuse against detainees from fiscal years 2013 to 2017. 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 occurrence of sexual abuse 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.