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Congressional letter calls for investigation of T. Don Hutto

On Monday, February 26, a group of 43 Democratic representatives sent a letter urging Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to take immediate action to stop sexual assault in Texas detention facilities. The letter calls for a review of the agency’s handling of sexual assault complaints and an expedited audit T. Don Hutto Detention Center following three women’s recent public complaints of abuse by guards.

Texas Congressmen Lloyd Doggett and Joaquin Castro spearheaded the congressional letter as a call to action. Representative Doggett said in a press release, "Many of these victims are refugees seeking asylum, fleeing prior traumatic experiences. Basic human decency requires that they not be abused here."

Newsweek reported that the letter calls for an expedited Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) audit of T. Don Hutto Detention Center, where Laura Monterrosa has been detained for nine months and faces increasing retaliation after speaking out about sexual assault. The article details the continual abuse that Laura is suffering from within detention: “Monterrosa was also reportedly denied mental health counseling on multiple occasions. Such action would be in violation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which states that corrections facilities have to offer treatment and counseling to survivors of sexual assault while in detention.”

In February, Laura Monterrosa was put in solitary confinement for over 60 hours and was threatened with indefinite confinement unless she would recant her accusation of abuse. The Independent stated that ICE denied she was placed in solitary confinement.

In a recording published by Democracy Now!, Laura called Bethany Carson from Grassroots Leadership on an unidentifiable number once she was released. Laura was being pressured to cut ties with her advocates and retract her testimony. Carson stated, “This is incredibly egregious that they are trying to silence a victim of sexual assault in this way.”

Community advocates have since mobilized support to visit Laura to keep her out of solitary confinement. The Guardian reported that “50 people protested this week outside the Hutto detention center in Texas, in support of the woman, Laura Monterrosa,” according to Grassroots Leadership. Community members have also testified before Williamson County Commissioner’s Court to end their contract for the facility with CoreCivic given the troubling history of sexual assault in the facility (formerly Corrections Corporation of America or CCA).

Salon reported that, in addition to the congressional representatives, three Austin city council members wrote a letter to ICE. City council member Gregorio Casar was publicly turned away from visiting in the facility when officials “were worried he would speak to the press about his visit.” The three council members demanded that ICE "release Ms. Monterrosa immediately" and questioned the agency’s decision to turn away Casar’s visit. The video of the event has since gone viral with coverage by NowThis.

We will continue to report on developments to the congressional action and Laura Monterrosa’s case, as it remains under open investigation by the FBI.

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