AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A federal judge agreed to outside mental-health treatment for a Salvadoran woman seeking asylum who said a guard groped her inside the immigration detention facility where she’s been held for months, an advocate told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman agreed to an order Tuesday that would force U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release Laura Monterrosa-Flores on a weekly basis to receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, according to Antonio Marcano, a spokesman for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which has sued on Monterrosa-Flores’ behalf.
Monterrosa-Flores is being detained at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center outside Austin. According to her lawsuit, Monterrosa-Flores attempted suicide in January.
While the AP doesn’t usually identify alleged victims of sexual assault, Monterrosa-Flores has agreed to come forward publicly. She told the AP in December that she believed ICE and the facility guards were trying to intimidate her.
“Women are forced to do what they say or stay silent out of fear,” she said.
ICE said in February that it “fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference.” The agency has also said it has implemented “strong protections” for people who are sexually assaulted in detention facilities.
About 40,000 people are being held in immigration detention, many in private facilities under contracts with ICE. Many of those people have sought asylum in the United States, saying they have a credible fear of returning to their home countries.
The advocacy group Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement, or CIVIC, sent a complaint in April 2017 to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that listed 27 allegations of sexual abuse in immigration detention over the previous three years. The complaint also said another 1,016 people reported sexual abuse in detention to the department between May 2014 and July 2016.