By Jason Barry
PHOENIX (CBS5) - Allegations of sexual abuse and assault went unreported and uninvestigated inside U.S. immigration detention centers, according to a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
The report states that federal immigration officials need to do a better job tracking and investigating allegations of sexual abuse at immigration detention facilities around the country.
Allesandra Soler is Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona.
"The report is definitely troublesome," said Soler. "It indicates that the government is certainly not doing everything it can and should be doing to prevent these types of sexual assaults from being investigated and ultimately prevented."
According to the GAO report, from October 2009 to March 2013, 28 allegations of sexual abuse by detainees were not reported to ICE headquarters.
The allegations came from 10 facilities across the country.
An ICE spokesperson released this statement:
"U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is deeply committed to eliminating sexual abuse in immigration detention; our zero-tolerance policy is a key part of immigration detention reform, which has been and continues to be an agency priority. ICE has reviewed the findings of the GAO report and, in the time between the initiating of the report and its release, has already implemented a number of steps to further address issues raised by this report.
Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) anticipates that the final Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) rule will be finalized in the very near future. The DHS PREA regulations will also build on substantial safeguards against sexual assault already in place at ICE detention facilities, including detailed provisions regarding sexual assault prevention in the Performance Based National Detention Standards and an ICE directive released in May of 2012 that strengthened ICE policies with respect to responding to and investigating allegations.
In recent years, ICE has taken significant steps to prevent, detect, and respond to sexual abuse in detention facilities. In fact, the time period covered by the GAO report predates the adoption of many of the preventative measures ICE put in place to safeguard against sexual assault within our detention system. These measures include issuing the agency-wide directive on sexual abuse and assault prevention and intervention in May 2012, strengthening the safeguards against sexual abuse and assault of detainees in ICE's detention standards; hiring a full-time sexual assault prevention coordinator; providing comprehensive sexual abuse and assault prevention and intervention training for ICE employees who have contact with detainees; creating an inter-agency working group on sexual abuse in detention and the September 2012 creation of the community and detainee help line."