A bipartisan group of 12 members of Congress are urging US President Barack Obama to issue stronger protections to prevent the sexual abuse of immigrant detainees in a newly-released letter.

The letter comes in light of a report recently released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealing the need for additional actions by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to address sexual abuse in immigrant detention centers. The report revealed that investigations into allegations of sexual abuse and assault in detention centers after often missing important documentation and are not reported to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) headquarters. It also showed that detainees face obstacles when trying to report abuse.

“The government has a moral responsibility to ensure the safety of any person under its charge,”said Representative Mike Quigley (D-IL). “The pervasive and systematic abuse of detainees held in immigration detention facilities, essentially at the hands of the government, is unconscionable. This urgent matter must be addressed quickly and at the highest possible level.”

Based on the study, GAO recommends that DHS develop ways to ensure allegations are being reported to the necessary headquarter office, ensure the hotline has access to connectivity data for recording of reports, document consistent standards on detention, and create an oversight process for sexual abuse and assault prevention and intervention efforts in all department facilities. The dozen representatives are calling for four additional actions in their letter to the president: they urge him to finish implementing several aspects of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), including requiring facilities housing immigrant detainees to have a Prevention of Sexual Abuse Compliance Manager, and require ICE and their facilities to implement proper and thorough investigation procedures around sexual abuse, among other changes.

Media Resources: ThinkProgress 11/27/2013; GAO Report 11/2013; Quigley.house.gov 11/22/2013; Lofgren.house.gov 11/22/2013; Quigley.house.gov 11/26/2013; Feminist Newswire 8/29/2013

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