The US government needs to strengthen its protection of people in immigration detention to prevent sexual abuse and to ensure justice for victims, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
The 24-page report, “Detained and at Risk: Sexual Abuse and Harassment in United States Immigration Detention,” describes documented incidents and allegations of abuse. It also discusses recent proposals by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to address the issue. Human Rights Watch emphasized that the agency should make improvements swiftly to improve oversight of the entire detention system and ensure accountability. “ICE has finally recognized the need for stronger protection of people in detention against sexual abuse, but it needs to play catch up quickly,” said Meghan Rhoad, women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “ICE needs to get new rules in place and make sure the rules have the teeth to ensure compliance from the hundreds of facilities across the detention system.” Human Rights Watch also expressed concern that the changes ICE proposes will have limited impact if ICE only makes changes to its standards. It has refused to issue binding legal regulations to address problems with detention conditions.