ICE May Not Have Reported 40 Percent of Sexual Assault Cases in Detention Facilities

As many as 40 percent of sexual assaults committed in ICE detention facilities may be going unreported, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office. The office visited ten holding centers chosen at random and found that although among them 42 sexual assault cases had been reported through the proper channels, another 28 had not. ICE, or the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, falls under the purview of the Department of Homeland Security and is responsible for monitoring the nation's borders. It's probably best known for its activities relating to the first part of its name: the agency is responsible for deporting illegal immigrants, who are held at various detention facilities throughout their removal proceedings. ICE runs over 200 such facilities all over the country.

In the report, DHS claims the reason not all of the results were reported to headquarters was that they considered some allegations either unfounded or not serious enough to constitute assault. Some of the cases where reporting was attempted may have been thwarted by a full voicemail or bad connection at the hotline dedicated to that purpose.

Sexual assault is a serious problem in ICE detention centers, where 215 allegations were officially reported between 2009 and 2013 — 86 of them against ICE staff members. Although only 15 of the 215 official allegations were substantiated, that's not a small number (especially considering how many other cases may not have been reported at all). The facilities also have issues with overcrowding and allegedly detaining immigrants longer than necessary to fill quotas.

The only good news here is that the more these problems come out into the light, the more likely they are to be addressed instead of swept under the rug. This latest report isn't enough to definitively advance immigration reform, but hopefully it may at least nudge the issue in the right direction.