EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — A detainee who alleged sexual assault inside the ICE detention center in El Paso entered the U.S. illegally twice and faced deportation after an arrest on state drug charges, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman said in a statement to Border Report.
The woman, described only as a Mexican national, was removed from the country on Sept. 14, 2020. She alleged that guards sexually assaulted her while detained at the El Paso Processing Center, an allegation of which ICE learned in January 2020 and which ICE said it immediately reported to ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility’s Joint Intake Center. ICE runs the El Paso Processing Center.
The woman entered the U.S. illegally in 2004 and 2008, ICE said.
In April 2018, she was arrested on state drug charges and booked into the San Juan County Adult Detention Center in Farmington, N.M. That is when and where ICE lodged an immigration detainer on the woman.
The woman pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and received 18 months of probation. The following year, on Sept. 18, 2019, ICE agents arrested her, gave her Notice to Appear in immigration court, and placed her in removal proceedings.
An ICE spokeswoman said an immigration judge issued a removal order on July 21, 2020, adding that the woman failed to file an appeal, ultimately resulting in a removal order.
In an email to Border Report, ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa did not respond to a question about the detainee’s deportation during an ongoing investigation about her harassment complaint.
Border Report also asked whether any charges are forthcoming against ICE personnel or contractors at El Paso Processing Center. Border Report also asked if Zamarripa could provide figures on sexual-harassment or sexual-assault complaints filed against ICE personnel or contractors at that or other ICE facilities in the El Paso Sector in the past three fiscal years. Zamarripa did not respond to either question.
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has zero-tolerance for any form of sexual abuse or assault against individuals in the agency’s custody and takes these allegations extremely seriously. It is the policy of ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations El Paso to provide a safe and secure environment for all detainees, employees, contractors, and volunteers free from the threat of sexual abuse or assault, by maintaining a Sexual Abuse and Assault Prevention and Intervention Program that ensures effective procedures for preventing, reporting, responding to, investigating, and tracking incidents or allegations of sexual abuse or assault,” Zamarripa said in a statement.
The deported woman is one of two females and one male who allege either assaults or sexual harassment inside the El Paso Processing Center.
One of the women reported being forcibly kissed and touched in her intimate parts by an officer in camera “blind spots” between detainees barracks and a medical building.
The woman also said an officer watched through a window as she and others were using the bathroom at the facility, according to a complaint filed by the Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center with the El Paso County District Attorney.
The victim reported the bathroom incident to a supervisor at the El Paso Processing Center but felt a captain dismissed her complaint, so she was discouraged from making further allegations and fell into anxiety and depression, according to Las Americas.
“I am incredibly concerned to see how victims and witnesses are becoming increasingly disposable to law enforcement, both locally and nationally,” Linda Corchado, a staff attorney at Las Americas, told Border Report on Monday. “My client attended a five-hour interview with the OIG (Office of the Inspector General) and FBI, provided critical information, and, from what I can tell, the investigation is still pretty much open.”
Corchado said Tuesday that she hadn’t had contact with her client since her deportation Monday. Corchado added that she’s working with the Mexican consulate so that her client, when located, can apply for a U-visa for crime victims.
The other female victim reported sexual harassment and being offered privileges like clean uniforms and soap in exchange for sexual favors. The woman reportedly is no longer in ICE custody.
The male victim complained about an officer rubbing his genitals and staring at him in the showers. The detainee was placed in solitary confinement and eventually transferred to a detention facility in Otero County, New Mexico, according to Las Americas.