A federal civil rights complaint filed this week claims that, out of 33,126 complaints of sexual and physical abuse in immigration detention, only 570 cases have been investigated by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General, the agency’s oversight office.
The complaint filed by the immigrant rights group Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) on Tuesday includes reports of sexual and physical assaults during medical examinations, strip searches, and rapes in detention allegedly perpetrated by guards and other detainees.
The complaints reviewed were filed between January 2010 and July 2016. The advocates say “there has been no formal complaint filed with this clear and massive amount of data” until now.
The reports of abuse were made at several DHS agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs & Border Protection, Transportation Security Administration, and the Coast Guard. In an overwhelming majority of cases, CIVIC found, the Office of the Inspector General sent cases back to the accused agency with no request that they follow up with OIG.
The complaint filed by CIVIC recommends Congress mandate that DHS start publishing information on all reported complaints of sexual abuse in their facilities and the investigation outcomes on a quarterly basis. Currently, this information is not publicly available.
The complaint found the top five facilities with the most sexual assault complaints are all privately run immigration detention facilities.
About 44.4% of the reports (or 14,693 of the total number of complaints) were made against ICE, according to the complaint, which relied on data obtained from the OIG through Freedom of Information Act and state public record requests made by CIVIC. Customs & Border Protection came next with 10,295 reports (31.1% of the total), according to the complaint.
The statistics included in the complaint are especially alarming given that President Donald Trump has proposed quickly hiring 5,000 more Border Patrol agents and 10,000 more ICE officers, and expanding immigration detention to help enforce his executive orders. Advocates fear the hiring spree could lead to less thorough background checks and trainings for staffers, which could make matters worse.