Laura Monterrosa has been locked in a private prison for 9 months after fleeing violence in El Salvador. She has spoke out about being sexually assaulted by one of the guards. But ICE doesn't want local officials meeting with her.pic.twitter.com/4jMhCEkrSg— Alex Janin (@AlexLJanin) February 26, 2018
A woman detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spoke out about being sexually harassed and allegedly endured hostile retaliation as a result.
Laura Monterrosa is an asylum seeker who’s been held at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Texas and has faced threats, harassment, and sexual abuse from officials while being detained at the private facility.
Last November, Monterrosa penned an anonymous letter describing her abuse; however, a tip revealed her identity and she was interviewed by ICE officials, the local sheriff’s office, and CoreCivic guards, who initially received the tip.
After her identity had been exposed, Monterrosa spoke openly with The Outline, detailing her harrowing experience.
“They treated me like I wasn’t a victim — like I was a criminal,” she reportedly said.
Although ICE and the sheriff’s office both closed the case, the FBI took it over and conducted their own interview with Monterrosa. It was at this point that ICE and CoreCivic began using extremely cruel retaliation tactics against the victim, human rights group Grassroots Leadership reportedly claimed.
Monterrosa was allegedly locked in solitary confinement for 60 hours in Hutto Detention Center and was told she would not be released from solitary until she publicly recanted her harassment claims.
“One ICE Official named Soto specifically demanded Laura call me and tell me she was no longer going to work with us,” said Grassroots Leadership’s Bethany Carson. “The ICE official went as far as telling her that he expected her to recant her claim to the media, or else she would be locked up again in solitary confinement indefinitely.”
Grassroots Leadership also said that “over the past four months, community advocates have witnessed ICE and CoreCivic’s retaliation tactics against Laura escalate from verbal aggression to threats of administrative discipline and indefinite periods of confinement.”
After the 60 hours of solitary confinement — which the Daily Kos noted is considered torture — Grassroots Leadership advocates called upon the Taylor Police Department to launch an investigation into the alleged intimidation.
“This should not be happening in America. Here you have a woman who came forward to report rampant sexual abuse inside of a federal facility. Instead of protecting her, and ensuring the abuse stops, ICE is now putting Laura in solitary confinement with the expressed intent of tearing her down so she will do as they say. This is against the law. There is an ongoing FBI investigation and ICE is trying to convince this witness to change her story,” said Claudia Muñoz, immigration programs director at Grassroots Leadership. “This is one of the most egregious abuses I have ever witnessed.”
A handful of outlets, including Salon, reported Monterrosa's story back in February. However, unsurprisingly, it was largely overlooked by mainstream media.
As of Tuesday, the victim had her day in court where a federal judge in Austin heard the habeas corpus petition and temporary restraining order filed in Monterrosa’s case, demanding her immediate release.
She was greeted by activists and community members showing support and solidarity.
Activists gather outside US District Court in Austin to support T Don Hutto sexual abuse victim Laura Monterrosa's suit against ICE pic.twitter.com/FN9Sb8XNTg— Mary Tuma (@TumaTime) March 13, 2018
It is unclear whether the judge granted Monterrosa's release. Alas, what is very clear from her support base is that women from all walks of life are fed up with being forced to endure abuse in silence, and immigrants overall are tired of being treated like second-class citizens.
ICE is supposed to detain so-called criminals, yet the main people committing the most heinous crimes seem to be the ones wearing the badges.
Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Department of Homeland Security