Info Demanded on Alleged Abuse of Refugees

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Immigration and Customs Enforcement refuses to release records on the alleged sexual abuse of asylum-seekers in a private, profit-seeking jail in Texas, a nonprofit claims in court.
     The Refugee Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), of San Antonio, sued ICE on Friday in Federal Court, claiming its response to a FOIA request filed in April is long overdue.
     The group seeks documents, including a blueprint of the Karnes County Residential Detention Center laundry room, where guards working for the Geo Group allegedly had sex with inmates.
     The Office of Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security investigated the allegations and concluded in January that they were unsubstantiated . The OIG said 33 people were interviewed and 360 hours of time-lapse video of the laundry room were reviewed for the report. Two guards were caught on tape having sex in the laundry room, RAICES says. They were fired.
     RAICES claims that federal investigators used “strong-arm tactics” to interview the jailed mothers for the OIG report; that there is “irreconcilable conflict” between the OIG report and “multiple mothers” at the immigration jail; and that there are “documented instances in which DHS OIG investigations have been tainted by intentionally falsified records in the past – including multiple agents and several criminal investigations in Texas.”
     The Karnes County Residential Detention Center in Karnes City, about 60 miles southeast of San Antonio, imprisons women and children. The Geo Group, one of the nation’s largest private prison companies, runs the jail on a federal contract.
     The OIG said in its report that it “failed to confirm that any of the detainees were escorted to those areas after hours by detention officers.”
     But RAICES says the report neither confirms nor denies that there were sexual assaults in the laundry room, “even if detainees were not ‘escorted’ to those areas after hours by detention officers.”
     “According to former detainees familiar with the allegations, the sexual assaults by guards happened quite intentionally in a ‘blind spot’ that would not have been captured by a security camera,” the complaint states.
     A federal judge in May declined to issue a temporary restraining order to three mothers at the Karnes City jail who claimed their Holy Week hunger strike led to retaliation.
     The lead plaintiffs in that class action from Latin American asylum-seekers said in their April lawsuit that they were locked in isolation cells after beginning a hunger strike to protest their detention and poor standards at the facility.
     RAICES, a nonprofit legal services and advocacy group, says it has provided legal services to more than 1,500 families in the “federal government’s makeshift refugee internment camps for women and children in Karnes City.”
     It seeks timely response to several particularized requests detailed in the 9-page lawsuit.
     RAICES is represented by R. Andrew Free of Nashville.

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