A case involving the alleged sexual assault of a woman being held at the T. Don Hutto detention center for women in Taylor has been referred to the FBI for investigation, according to the Williamson County sheriff’s office.
Laura Monterrosa made a report to the sheriff’s office in November that she was sexually assaulted by a guard at the federal immigration detention center starting in June. The assaults continued for months, she said.
“The San Antonio FBI Field Office, Austin Resident Agency Office and the Civil Rights Division have opened a civil rights investigation into the alleged sexual assault of a detainee by a correctional officer at T. Don Hutto Detention Center,” said Michelle Lee, an FBI spokeswoman on Thursday.
Lee would not say when the investigation started.
“The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence and will ensure that the investigation is conducted in a fair, thorough and impartial manner. As this is an ongoing investigation we are not able to comment further at this time,” she said.
The Williamson County sheriff’s office declined to comment Thursday because of the FBI investigation.
Grassroots Leadership, an immigrant advocacy group, held a protest Monday outside the Williamson County sheriff’s office because the law enforcement agency never conducted an independent investigation of Monterrosa’s case after it was reported to deputies, said Bethany Carson, a researcher and organizer for the group. The organization is assisting Monterrosa, who is from El Salvador, in her attempt to be granted asylum in the United States.
Carson said Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials told Grassroots Leadership they had investigated Monterrosa’s case with help from the sheriff’s office and found her claim to be unsubstantiated. ICE did not respond to a request for comment Thursday about the case.
Carson said other female detainees were now coming forward with allegations about abuses of power and “other things that are happening” at the detention center because of Monterrosa’s case. “They are seeing it is important to speak up,” said Carson. “Really the only protection they have is each other and their own voices.”
T. Don Hutto Detention Center has been operated by CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America, since 1996. It houses female immigrants detained on suspicion of being in the country illegally.