Sending Office: Honorable Raul M. Grijalva
Sent By:

Deadline: Mon, Dec 11th COB

Endorsed by: Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), Grassroots Leadership, Detention Watch Network, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Dear Colleague,

Please join me in signing a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) urging them to address sexual abuse in US detention facilities.

The 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act established a bipartisan National Prison Rape Elimination Commission that was charged with making recommendations to improve detection, prevention, reduction, and punishment of sexual assault in prisons. Among other concerning
findings, this report found that approximately 60,000 U.S. inmates faced sexual abuse each year. Notably, although DHS and ICE have publically stated their commitment to the goals of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, complaints of physical and sexual abuse
in detention centers remain grossly under-investigated and under-reported. Further troubling, ICE

recently asked
the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) for permission to begin destroying records related to its detention operations, including those related to sexual assaults for the last 20 years.

This letter urges the leadership at the DHS and DOJ’s Office of Inspector Generals to appoint special committees of investigators to inspect complaints of sexual abuse in detention facilities, make data on sexual abuse in DHS facilities public, and asks
ICE to withdraw its petition for NARA to destroy records of these complaints.

The full text of the letter is below. If you have questions or would like to sign on to this letter, please contact Yesenia Chavez in my office at The deadline to sign on is
Monday, December 11th.



Raúl M. Grijalva                                                                                  Judy Chu

Member of Congress                                                                           Member of Congress


December XX, 2017

Elaine Duke, Acting Secretary                                            Thomas D. Homan, Director

Department of Homeland Security                                      U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

245 Murray Lane SW                                                          500 12th Street, SW

Washington, D.C. 20528                                                     Washington, D.C. 20536


Michael E. Horowitz, Inspector General                             John Roth, Inspector General

Department of Justice                                                          Department of Homeland Security 

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW                                          245 Murray Lane SW

Suite 4706                                                                           Washington, D.C. 20528

Washington, D.C. 20530-0001


Dear Acting Secretary Duke, Director Homan, Inspector General Horowitz, and Inspector General Roth:

We write to express our deep concerns about the prevalence of reports of sexual abuse, assault, and harassment in U.S. immigration detention facilities, the lack of adequate government investigation into these reports, and the government’s refusal to disclose
relevant records, as outlined in Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC)’s April 11th multi-individual civil rights complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
(CRCL) pursuant to 6 U.S.C. § 345.[1] Since CIVIC filed its complaint, more people in immigration detention have come forward. Most recently, women at the T. Don Hutto Detention Center in
Taylor, Texas spoke out publicly earlier this month about repeated sexual assault.[2]

We appreciate significant efforts taken by DHS to address sexual assault in immigration detention including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)’s “Sexual Abuse and Assault Prevention and Intervention” directive[3]
and the regulations promulgated by ICE on “Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Sexual Abuse and Assault in Confinement Facility,” 79 Fed. Reg. 13,100 (Mar. 7, 2014).   These standards call for a zero tolerance policy for any sexual abuse, mandatory
PREA training for all staff, and at least one outside audit for PREA compliance every three years. 

Despite this zero tolerance policy, the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security received a total of 33,126 complaints of sexual and/or physical abuse against DHS component agencies between January 2010 and July 2016, according
to CIVIC’s complaint. Of the 33,126 complaints of sexual and/or physical abuse, the DHS-OIG opened investigations into only 225 of them, or 0.07%.[4] 

More complaints were submitted against ICE than any other DHS component agency. Of the total number of complaints, 44.4% (or 14,693 complaints) were lodged against ICE.  The agency that is the subject of the second-most complaints is U.S. Customs and Border
Protection (CBP), the subject of 10,295 complaints (31.1% of the total).

The DHS-OIG received at least 1,016 reports of sexual abuse or assault filed by people in immigration detention between May 28, 2014, and July 12, 2016.[5] The DHS-OIG only investigated 24 of these complaints.  

The following cases included in CIVIC’s complaint represent troubling and serious concerns regarding violations of PREA and ineffective investigations of complaints: 

  • Douglas Menjivar Pineda was raped at the Joe Corley Detention Facility, according to the complaint, in September 2013.  Mr. Menjivar filed an official complaint, but he was only interviewed about the complaint two years later.  His attorney was not allowed
    to be present in the interviews, and shortly after the interviews, Mr. Menjivar received a notice from ICE that stated that “the facts and evidence did not support that the incident occurred.”
  • Maria Ortiz Cortez was transferred to the West County Detention Facility in California after she was sexually assaulted at the Yuba County Jail and filed a complaint, further isolating her from her support system in the surrounding community. 
  • A child at the Karnes County Residential Center in Texas showed indications of a sexually transmitted disease and vaginal scarring. Despite physical evidence, ICE declared the allegation of sexual abuse unfounded. 
  • Damion “Latoya” Ricketts, a transgender woman, was sexually harassed by a corrections officer at the Santa Ana City Jail in July 2016 when he performed a degrading strip search on her in the men’s changing room and demanded she slowly remove each article
    of her clothing, hand them to him, and run her fingers through his hair. 

Despite these troubling statistics, ICE recently asked the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) to approve its timetable for retaining or destroying records related to its detention operations.  Specifically, ICE has asked for permission to
begin routinely destroying 11 kinds of records, including those related to sexual assaults for the last 20 years. Destroying past records would only exacerbate the lack of adequate oversight of these reports.

Given numerous troubling reports of sexual abuse in immigration detention from civil and human rights organizations for years, we request that you do the following:

  1. Appoint a special committee of investigators with DHS-OIG to inspect violations of PREA within U.S. immigration detention facilities.
  2. Appoint a special committee of investigators with the Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General to launch a comprehensive pattern or practice investigation into sexual assault in U.S. immigration detention.
  3. DHS should publicly release aggregate data on complaints of sexual abuse in DHS facilities, including ICE and CBP facilities, on its website on a quarterly basis, without compromising confidentiality. This practice should begin within the next 90 days,
    and information should include actions taken and investigation outcomes.
  4. ICE should withdraw its petition to NARA for destroying records, or digitize and make public all of the records prior to physical destruction.

We appreciate your prompt attention to this matter and look forward to a response.  We look forward to continuing to work with you in the future.


_______________________________                                              ______________________________

Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva                                                            Congresswoman Judy Chu                             


[1] Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), “Sexual Abuse, Assault, and Harassment in U.S. Immigration Detention Facilities Complaint” April 11, 2017. 

[2] Vasquez, Tina. “Texas Detention Center Faces Allegations of Widespread Sexual Abuse—Again (Updated).” ReWire, 22 Nov. 2017,

[3] ICE. “Policy No. 11062.2. Sexual Abuse and Assault Prevention and Intervention.” 2014.

[4] OIG did undertake 570 total investigations of sexual and/or physical abuse incidents, but only 225 arose out of a complaint.

[5] Prior to May 28, 2014, the DHS OIG had no category to differentiate between complaints filed by people in immigration detention or complaints filed by people outside of detention.


Related Legislative Issues

Selected legislative information: Civil Rights, Immigration, Judiciary

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