At least three guards at a San Antonio immigration detention center are being accused of sexually abusing female detainees.
Attorneys for a woman who was detained in the San Antonio Karnes Center, a privately run 537-bed facility, alleges that the guards molested her and others.
“At least three Karnes Center employees are suspected as having engaged in this conduct,” said Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) attorney Marisa Bono on Thursday.
MALDEF charges that guards at the facility offered money or help with pending immigration cases in exchange for sex and that guards accosted many other women.
The complaint charges that female detainees were removed “from their cells late in the evening and early morning hours for the purpose of engaging in sexual acts in various parts of the facility.”
Bono also said that they worried that women in the facility might face retaliation now that the charges have been made public.
“We’re concerned about the safety of the women who reported and the women who are victims. We would like assurances that they aren’t going to be retaliated against. We also want to know what is being done,” Bono said during the press conference.
GEO Group, the company that runs the facility, “strongly” refutes the charges.
“The Karnes County Residential Center provides a safe, clean, and family friendly environment for mothers and children awaiting required processing by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. The center provides high quality care, and our company strongly denies any allegations to the contrary,” company spokesman Pablo Paez said.
Immigration officials said they would cooperate with authorities during the investigation.
Spokeswoman Nina Pruneda said ICE “has a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of sexual abuse or assault, and our facilities are maintained in accordance with applicable laws and policies. Accusations of alleged unlawful conduct are investigated thoroughly and if substantiated, appropriate action is taken.”
The center does not operate under any state law and is wholly governed by federal regulations, so the state of Texas has no oversight or control of the facility.
Earlier this year the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bureau was hit with several lawsuits from female ICE employees who said that they were discriminated against because of their sex. One such suit was settled out of court for $175,000.
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