Woman at Hutto immigration detention says guard sexually assaulted her


Highlights

Laura Monterrosa, an immigrant held at the T. Don Hutto detention center, said a guard assaulted her.

Monterrosa fled El Salvador, seeking asylum from violence in her country.

The guard sexually assaulted Monterrosa several times over the course of months, she said.

An immigrant from El Salvador being held in an immigrant detention center in Williamson County is alleging that a guard sexually assaulted her several times over a span of months.

Laura Monterrosa made a report with the Williamson County sheriff’s office after authorities learned of possible assaults Nov. 3, according to the immigrant advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, which is assisting Monterrosa in her attempt to be granted asylum in the United States.

READ: 130 miles from Austin, immigration court decides fate of thousands

Monterrosa has met with officials from the sheriff’s office twice so far regarding sexual assaults she has said began in June and continued for months. According to a letter from Monterrosa, a female jailer at the T. Don Hutto detention center in Taylor assaulted her and another woman.

Grassroots Leadership provided a copy of the letter with the guard’s name redacted.

“A woman named (redacted) 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 confirmed it has received Monterrosa’s complaint but would not comment on whether it is investigating the allegations, spokeswoman Patricia Gutierrez said.

READ: How two ICE programs let sheriffs cash in on immigration crackdown

CoreCivic, formerly Corrections Corporation of America, performs all operations at T. Don Hutto. The facility has been operated by the company since 1996 and houses female immigrants detained on suspicion of being in the country illegally.

It was the site of an alleged sexual assault in 2007, when a customs agent spotted a guard coming out of a woman’s cell at midnight. The FBI investigated the incident and found that no assault occurred, but the guard was fired over the incident.

Facility spokesman Gilbert Drab said the company’s contract requires it to refer all press inquiries to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE spokeswoman Nina Pruneda, in a statement, said the agency does not comment on pending investigations.

“Accusations of alleged unlawful conduct are investigated thoroughly and appropriate action is taken to ensure the safety and security of those involved and the others in ICE custody,” Pruneda said.

Monterrosa entered the U.S. in May and sought asylum to escape violence in her home country. The immigration court system denied her request and she has appealed, said Bethany Carson, immigration policy researcher and organizer at Grassroots Leadership.

Monterrosa said another inmate also tried to report an assault involving another guard, whom she also named in her complaint. That woman was quickly transferred to another facility, Carson said, leaving others with the impression that the woman would be deported because she had made the report.

“That is definitely the understood implication in the detention center,” said Carson, who spoke Wednesday with Monterrosa.

Both guards accused by Monterrosa remain employed at the detention center, Carson said.



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