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Immigration advocates rally to include detainees in #MeToo

National media drew attention to stories of sexual assault in Texas detention facilities in January as part of the #MeToo movement. On January 8, the Associated Press published an article detailing the rampant issue of sexual abuse in detention facilities nationally and the failure of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to investigate of these claims. The article highlights the story of Laura Monterrosa, who came forward publicly on November 9 to speak out against sexual assault at T. Don Hutto Detention Center in Taylor, Texas run by CoreCivic (formerly Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA).

The article details that according to the advocacy organization CIVIC, between May 2014 and July 2016, DHS received 1,043 complaints of sexual abuse, and “investigated less than 3 percent of the sexual abuse complaints it received during that same time period.” Many instances of abuse also go unreported due to threat of retaliation against victims who file a complaint. Speaking from her experience, Laura Monterrosa said, "Women are forced to do what they say or stay silent out of fear." Monterrosa was joined by two other women who also spoke out against sexual assault they experienced while detained at T. Don Hutto detention center. According to the article, four reports of sexual abuse were filed by women detained at Hutto in the last fiscal year, and the facility is known for abuse in the past.

Despite alleged protection for those who speak out under the Prison Rape Elimination Act, Monterrosa has faced increasing retaliation. The FBI has an open investigation on Monterrosa’s case. Advocates are calling for her release so "she can live in peace and recover from this new trauma she experienced at the hands of those responsible for ensuring her safety.” We will continue reporting on this developing story.