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Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) demands immediate action by President Obama and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to end human rights violations in the U.S. immigration detention system following allegations of sexual assault against female immigration detainees at T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas.

ICE admitted late Friday afternoon that the agency was investigating allegations that a guard at the Hutto facility had assaulted female detainees on their way to being deported.

“How many more lives are ICE and President Obama willing to put at risk before taking meaningful steps to end human rights abuses in the immigration detention system?” responded Mary Meg McCarthy, executive director, Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center. “Women – we do not even know how many – have now suffered the trauma of sexual assault because of the failure of ICE leadership to respect the human dignity of those in its custody and implement meaningful reform.”

Hutto is owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America, which contracts with ICE to detain immigrants facing deportation. In August 2009, the Hutto facility was converted from a family detention center to a female-only facility following lawsuits challenging the prison-like conditions in which immigrant children and their parents were held. ICE has since extolled the facility as a model for “civil detention reform.”

“These latest reports of human rights violations within the immigration system are another indication that ICE cannot sustain the current rate of mass immigration detention – which is expected to exceed more than 400,000 detainees this year – without endangering lives,” McCarthy said.

NIJC calls for Obama and ICE to immediately take the following steps to end inhumane immigration detention:

  • Halt deportations until the investigation of the Hutto assault is closed so that witnesses and victims can be identified
  • Release potential victims from detention and connect them with NGOs which can provide necessary support and social services
  • End the unnecessary detention of individuals who are not dangers to the community
  • Improve national detention standards to ensure that detainees are treated humanely, and codify those standards in law to ensure they are enforced
  • Implement the Prison Rape Elimination Standards, which were created to protect all detainees from sexual assault and rape
  • Create effective mechanisms for oversight of all detention facilities and staff


Heartland Alliance's National Immigrant Justice Center is a Chicago-based nongovernmental organization dedicated to ensuring human rights protections and access to justice for all immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers through a unique combination of direct services, policy reform, impact litigation and public education. For more information visit