A woman in custody at an immigration detention center in Taylor who has accused a guard of sexually assaulting her recently tried to commit suicide, advocates said this week.
Laura Monterrosa, a woman from El Salvador who has been held at the T. Don Hutto immigrant detention center since May, tried to kill herself on Jan. 11, according to the Austin-based immigrant advocacy group Grassroots Leadership.
“I feel very desperate because I tried to report the abuse from ICE and facility officials, but they continue to psychologically abuse me through intimidation,” Monterrosa said in a statement released Monday by Grassroots Leadership. “I do not feel safe or secure. I am not receiving the medical treatment or help I need.”
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement contracts with CoreCivic to operate the detention center. CoreCivic referred questions to ICE. Officials with ICE did not confirm or deny that Monterrosa tried to take her life, but did confirm that Monterrosa did have a medical situation Jan. 12.
Medical staff immediately referred her to the Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Round Rock, where she was further evaluated, ICE officials said.
“After a hospital physician determined her to be stable, she was discharged from the hospital and returned to ICE custody” at the T. Don Hutto detention center, ICE said in a statement.
ICE medical staff at the center are keeping her under observation, ICE officials said.
According to a letter written by Monterrosa last year, a female guard assaulted her and another woman. Grassroots Leadership has said they have received letters from three women accusing guards at the detention center of sexual misconduct.
The guard accused of assaulting Monterrosa, who was not named by Grassroots Leadership, “harassed me, telling me threatening words and forcing me to have unwanted relations with her, which I did not want, but I had to do what she wanted,” Monterrosa’s letter said. “She looked for or took advantage of every moment she could to touch my breasts or my legs, she knew where and when she did it. I don’t remember the dates because there are many.”
The Williamson County sheriff’s office has said it opened an investigation in connection to Monterrosa’s report.
Monterrosa entered the U.S. in May and sought asylum to escape violence in her home country, according to Grassroots Leadership. The immigration court system denied her request and she has appealed, said Bethany Carson, immigration policy researcher and organizer at Grassroots Leadership.
Claudia Muñoz, immigration programs director at Grassroots Leadership, said Monterrosa’s case is heart-wrenching.
“It’s just inhumane to force this victim of sexual abuse to have to relive that abuse everyday by being forced to confront her abuser over and over again,” Muñoz said. “Laura can’t escape this pain, she can’t get the treatment she needs.”