Asylum-seeker released from Taylor detention center, group says


Highlights

Salvadoran woman “is adjusting to her new environment and recovering from trauma,” says Grassroots Leadership.

Laura Monterrosa has said she was sexually assaulted at an immigration detention center in Williamson County.

A Salvadoran woman seeking asylum who has said that a guard groped her inside a Williamson County immigration detention facility has been released, a group supporting her said Saturday.

Laura Monterrosa was released from the T. Don Hutto detention facility in Taylor on Friday night, the group Grassroots Leadership said. It did not say where Monterrosa is now living.

“Laura is adjusting to her new environment and recovering from the trauma she has experienced,” Grassroots Leadership said in a statement.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Monterrosa entered the United States in May and sought asylum to escape violence in her home country of El Salvador. The immigration court system denied her request, and she has appealed.

Monterrosa has said in a letter that a female guard at the immigration detention facility “harassed me, telling me threatening words and forcing me to have unwanted relations with her.”

RELATED: Woman at Hutto immigration detention says guard sexually assaulted her

The Williamson County sheriff’s office has said it opened an investigation in connection to Monterrosa’s report.

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.”

In total, 44 other members of Congress co-signed the letter, according to Doggett’s office.

The letter said that five detainees also have reported sexual assault at the T. Don Hutto center from 2007 to 2011.

According to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Homeland Security Department agreed Friday to release Monterrosa under deferred action, which will protect her temporarily from deportation.

“For months we’ve been seeking justice for Laura. But this welcome progress is about more than one individual,” Doggett said in a statement Saturday. “Deporting her would not only have prematurely rejected her asylum claim but also would have impaired an ongoing FBI civil rights investigation.”

RELATED: Austin City Council member not allowed to visit woman in detention

“Despite facing retaliation inside, including solitary confinement, Laura showed incredible courage in speaking out to tell her story,” Claudia Muñoz, immigration programs director at Grassroots Leadership, said in a statement Saturday. “This is a huge victory for Laura, for all the women who have organized and spoken out, and for the community that came to their support.”

Immigration advocates said Monterrosa attempted suicide in January after being denied treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression and continued to complain about mental health problems.

RELATED: Immigrant detainee who alleged abuse to receive therapy

Attorneys with the legal defense fund on March 3 filed a federal lawsuit seeking Monterrosa’s immediate release from the detention center, saying she had been unconstitutionally denied medical care, according to a petition.

After a court hearing this week, ICE agreed Tuesday to pay for and take her to a therapist for mental health treatment.



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