HOUSTON - A woman claims she was raped, impregnated then deported hours later from an immigrant detention facility in Houston. She's now suing CoreCivic, a private prison company that owns the facility for punitive damages.
In a taped recording provided by her attorneys, the woman, identified only as Jane Doe in a federal lawsuit, claims that she and two other women were raped and sexually assaulted while in ICE custody at CoreCivic's Houston Processing Center in June of 2018.
According to court documents, “Around midnight, three men entered the isolated cell and brutally attacked and sexually assaulted Plaintiff and the two other women. Just hours later, all three women – injured and still shaken from the attack – were placed on a bus and deported to Mexico.”
"When you're sexually assaulted on the eve of your deportation, that doesn't even give you a lot of time to report to law enforcement before you are removed from the country," said Michelle Simpson Tuegel, the co-lead counsel for the woman's case. "Not to mention the fact that you are supposed to report to the very people who may have perpetrated the violence on you."
Tuegel said her client gave birth to a baby girl nine months after that alleged rape. The identity of her alleged rapist still remains unknown to this day after Tuegel said their calls for a criminal investigation went nowhere.
"In this case, because the contract is with the U.S. government, one of the first things we did was actually report it to the federal government. To our knowledge, at this point, they have done nothing," Tuegel said.
In a statement, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office said, "In February 2019, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office received an allegation stating that a female detainee was sexually assaulted at the CoreCivic facility in Houston in June 2018. A thorough investigation was conducted and was closed after detectives were unable to confirm a crime occurred as alleged."
Rebekah Entralgo, a representative with Freedom for Immigrants said the non-profit, advocacy group attained data through a public records request. Their analysis found an alarmingly, low rate of investigations into sexual and physical abuse claims at immigrant detention facilities.
"We analyzed data attained through FOIA -- Freedom of Information Act Requests, which found that between January 2010 and July of 2016, the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security received over 33,000 complaints of sexual assault or physical abuse against component agencies in DHS, but the Office of Inspector General investigated less than 1% of those cases," Entralgo said.
"At the time that we had launched our report on sexual assault and ICE presence, there were more complaints from Texas launched against the Department Homeland Security -- more than any other state. There were 7390 complaints but the Office of Inspector General only investigated 120 of those complaints out of Texas," Entralgo continued.
CoreCivic issued the following statement in response to the allegations made in the lawsuit:
"We are committed to the safety and dignity of every individual entrusted to our care. In this case, attorneys for the plaintiff allege that three men, dressed in “jeans and plainclothes, with their faces covered,” sexually assaulted her and two other unnamed detainees at Houston Processing Center on June 2, 2018. The complaint itself and subsequent public statements made by these attorneys include numerous inaccuracies, misrepresentations and false statements, which are unrelated to the plaintiff’s claim. These slanderous statements were designed specifically to smear CoreCivic and the dedicated men and women working to ensure the safety and security of detainees in our facilities. CoreCivic will take swift action to strike these allegations from the complaint and hold the attorneys who prepared them responsible.
CoreCivic has a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of sexual abuse and sexual harassment. To ensure we are in full compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), all staff receive pre-service and in-service education and training, and all detainees receive PREA education and training beginning at initial reception and continuing while they are with us.
Anyone can report an allegation or suspected incident of sexual abuse or harassment, including detainees, staff and third parties. There are multiple options to report allegations including (but not limited to) calling the National Sexual Assault Hotline, notifying a staff member either verbally or in writing, writing the facility warden, using the PREA hotline numbers posted in multiple areas throughout the facilities (in English and Spanish), including information about contacting CoreCivic’s Ethics and Compliance hotline (at no charge) or through the CoreCivic website. Detainees are also informed of their right to be free from sexual abuse and their ability to confidentially report any such abuse in frequent town hall meetings.
In this case, CoreCivic wasn’t informed of the allegation until nine months after it allegedly occurred, when the company was contacted by these attorneys. The allegation was investigated by ICE and the Harris County Sheriff’s Department. The investigation determined that the allegation was unfounded. CoreCivic will vigorously defend this allegation in court."