(CN) - The Department of Homeland Security has proposed standards to try to reduce sexual assaults in immigration jails.
The standards are proposed for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement jails and holding tanks.
"Sexual violence, against any victim, is an assault on human dignity and an affront to American values. Many victims report persistent, even lifelong mental and physical suffering," the proposed regulation states.
The DHS proposed the standards in response to the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act and a June 2009 report by the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission (NPREC).
The NPREC report found that the large and increasing population of detainees in the United States has "heightened vulnerability," and their circumstances require special interventions.
From 1994 to 2009 the number of immigrants detained increased by nearly 400 percent, and included thousands of unaccompanied children, and entire families, the report found.
"Because immigration detainees are confined by the agency with the power to deport them, officers have an astounding degree of leverage - especially when detainees are not well informed of their rights and lack access to legal counsel. The Commission learned that officers have propositioned women whose cases they control, telling them that if they want to be released they need to comply with their sexual demands. The fear of deportation cannot be overstated and also functions to silence many individuals who are sexually abused."
The DHS requests public comments through Feb. 19, 2013. A public meeting is not planned but one may be requested.
Government response, if any, to sexual abuse in immigration prisons has been complicated by the government's predilection to hand over such jails to private contractors.