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Laura Monterrosa Released from T. Don Hutto Detention Center

Following a four month campaign and mounting community pressure, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released Laura Monterrosa from T. Don Hutto Detention Center on Friday, March 16.

This victory came after Monterrosa reported sexual assault by a CoreCivic (formerly CCA, or Corrections Corporation of America) guard in November. While ICE and the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office claimed to investigate her case and find no substantiation, the FBI opened an investigation in December. In the months that followed, Monterrosa faced increasing retaliation within the center, including 60 hours of solitary confinement under threat of indefinite isolation unless she recanted her testimony.

Monterrosa then sued ICE for her release on the grounds that she had not been provided adequate medical care, including psychological evaluation or treatment. The parties settled for her to receive outpatient therapy once per week.

Congressional representatives also acted to bring attention to the issue of sexual assault in Texas detention facilities. As the Austin American-Statesman reported, “U.S. Reps. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, and Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, wrote to immigration officials last month asking them to ‘direct an investigation of ICE’s handling of sexual assault cases in Texas immigration detention facilities.’” The letter mentioning Monterrosa’s case was signed by 44 congressional representatives. In the final days of the campaign, the community called on Beto O’Rourke to intervene in the case and made a direct call to Daniel Bible, San Antonio Field Director for ICE. O’Rourke said in his interview with the Texas Observer, “For me the really amazing thing is all these people in Texas, really different parts of the state … this network of people who came together to make sure she was OK.”

As the Texas Observer reported, Laura’s case showed that it is possible to win under the Trump administration. “A lot of people have stopped organizing because they don’t think it’s possible now,” Claudia Muñoz, immigration programs director at Grassroots Leadership, said. “But you have to be willing to try; it might not work, but people are being deported either way.”

Laura received deferred action and continues to advocate for the women detained in Hutto. “Now that we can claim this victory, we can achieve more because this is not just about me, there are 500 women inside suffering right now. We should keep fighting for them and their liberation. With the help of all of you, we can achieve this and much more. I  know that everyone together, we can achieve a great triumph,” she said at a press conference on March 26.

Image Source: Grassroots Leadership

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