ICE Jail Nurse Sexually Assaulted Migrant Ladies, Grievance Letter Says


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The first full day that Maria, an asylum-seeker from Venezuela, was within the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Stewart Detention Heart in Lumpkin, Georgia, she was despatched for a routine medical screening. After ready for about two hours in a reception room, at round 2 p.m. a male nurse referred to as her identify. Maria stood up and walked previous him, into the small examination room. The nurse greeted her jovially, adopted her in, after which closed the door. It was New 12 months’s Eve, 2021.

Over the subsequent roughly half-hour, based on a letter detailing her and different girls’s allegations submitted to the Division of Homeland Safety’s Workplace for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, or CRCL, the nurse inappropriately touched Maria’s breasts, rubbed his penis towards her hand, made repeated uncomfortable remarks, resisted her makes an attempt to push away his hand, and blocked her from leaving. She advised him to cease a number of occasions and requested to go away the examination room.

The nurse didn’t let her depart, based on the grievance to CRCL. At one level he advised Maria, “Me encantas,” or Spanish for, roughly, “I’m loopy about you.” He led her to a different workplace, the place he complimented her, advised her that he wanted to examine her menstrual cycle, and insisted on seeing her vaginal discharge, the grievance reads. After Maria insisted once more that she needed to go away, the nurse finally let her go and advised her to inform her pal to come back see him as properly.

“I used to be shaking, I used to be scared, I needed to go away,” Maria advised The Intercept. “It was the worst day of my life.” After she reported the incident, she mentioned, she was accused of mendacity and was threatened with retaliation for reporting the incident.

Maria is one among 4 girls who spoke out about sexual assault and harassment by the nurse within the grievance. Three different girls, who’re additionally asylum-seekers, reported related therapy within the grievance.

The nurse “has repeatedly taken benefit of his place as a medical skilled to isolate girls at Stewart in curtained-off medical examination rooms, drive or coerce them into giving him entry to non-public components of their physique with out medical justification or want, and [assault] them throughout his ‘medical exams,’” the CRCL grievance reads.

The allegations of sexual assault and harassment are a part of a broader collection of troubling complaints levied by girls who’ve been detained within the facility, elevating a priority that there’s a sample of medical neglect and abusive situations.

The nurse didn’t reply to a number of cellphone calls or a mailed record of questions. CoreCivic, the non-public jail firm that runs Stewart and is the nurse’s employer, mentioned in a press release that it accomplished an administrative investigation in January after two girls reported allegations of sexual assault by the nurse. Based on CoreCivic, its investigation discovered that one report was “unsubstantiated” and that the opposite was “unfounded.” ICE didn’t present a remark by the point of this story’s publication.

Stewart Detention Heart seen via the entrance gate on Nov. 15, 2019, in Lumpkin, Ga.

Picture: David Goldman/AP

Stewart Detention Heart has lengthy had a popularity for having the worst situations within the U.S. immigration detention system. A distant and remoted facility with the best loss of life price of all immigration jails within the final 5 years, Stewart is named the “black gap” of the immigration detention community. It has been the main focus of tales about abusive guards, exploitative labor practices, and migrants pushed to suicide. Till lately, Stewart’s distress was solely borne by male detainees.

That modified after the Irwin County Detention Heart, a facility in Georgia that housed feminine immigration detainees, was partially shut down following quite a few allegations of abuse and medical neglect. After the partial closure, ICE started sending feminine detainees to Stewart.

Stewart is named the “black gap” of the immigration detention community.

With the arrival of girls at Stewart in December 2020, a brand new sample of abuse allegations is rising. This investigation is predicated on inner Homeland Safety information, public studies, sheriff’s division paperwork, emergency name information, and interviews with almost a dozen sources. Data reviewed by The Intercept point out that there have been not less than 17 sexual assault allegations within the 11-month interval between Might 2021 and Might 2022, 11 of which allege abuse by facility workers.

4 separate girls, within the CRCL grievance, are alleging sexual assault and harassment by the nurse employed on the facility. The Intercept spoke with all 4 of them.

Two girls advised The Intercept that once they initially made complaints via official channels contained in the detention middle, CoreCivic workers threatened them with retaliation for making an attempt to talk out. A Division of Homeland Safety database monitoring accusations, which was reviewed by The Intercept, reveals two girls made complaints of sexual misconduct by medical workers at Stewart throughout the identical interval lined by the letter to the CRCL.

“I’m scared,” Maria recalled, telling an official who interviewed her the day after the assault. “I’m scared, I’m scared.”

“They mentioned I used to be mendacity,” Maria later advised The Intercept. “They mentioned I may go to jail for seven years if I filed the [internal] grievance.”

Advocates for the detained girls lauded them for coming ahead regardless of the threats and lack of penalties ensuing from their earlier complaints.

“We’re blown away by the bravery of those girls, to open themselves up like this and inform these tales,” mentioned Erin Argueta, lead lawyer with the Southern Poverty Legislation Heart’s Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative. “Even when detained, and threatened with retaliation, they confirmed superb bravery coming ahead.”

The sexual misconduct allegations are a part of a broader set of prices made by detainees and advocates of medical misconduct and abuses associated to well being and hygiene — allegations repeated in public information from quite a lot of sources that time to neglect and unhealthy situations. Stewart has the capability to carry almost 2,000 detained individuals, however, as of June 13, it has an common every day inhabitants of 1,092.

The interior grievance database from the CRCL workplace, obtained via a Freedom of Info Act request, reveals 30 complaints made to CRCL about Stewart between August 5, 2021, and April 13, 2022. Lots of the complaints element an absence of medical consideration. Others allege rotten meals, extended detention, and correctional workers misconduct.

As well as, 911 name information obtained by The Intercept via a public information request, from late December 2020 — when girls began being held in Stewart — via late June of this 12 months, present there have been 118 emergency calls made to 911 from the power. Not less than 23 calls had been specified to be for detained girls experiencing medical emergencies, though it may very well be extra, since some notes from the emergency calls don’t specify a gender.

Based on the 911 information and interviews with girls within the facility, two girls have tried suicide whereas in Stewart. Three girls The Intercept spoke with mentioned they witnessed or heard about suicide makes an attempt whereas detained on the facility. “Many people had been actually marked by seeing that,” mentioned Diana, one other asylum-seeker who, together with different detainees, witnessed one of many makes an attempt. “Many couldn’t sleep, had been depressed.”

Four girls at the power reported their experiences with the nurse to immigration attorneys and advocates, who on July 12 filed a letter of grievance to the CRCL. The grievance makes use of pseudonyms for the ladies, who’re named within the grievance as Maria, Viviana, Laura, and Marta. The Intercept has confirmed the names and identities of the ladies and can be withholding their names out of respect for his or her privateness as a result of they’re victims of an alleged crime.

The grievance was co-signed by civil rights and immigrant advocacy organizations, together with the Southern Poverty Legislation Heart, Mission South, the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, Black Alliance for Simply Immigration, El Refugio, the Georgia Human Rights Clinic, and Owings MacNorlin LLC. The organizations additionally filed complaints towards the nurse, one for every girl, to the Georgia Board of Nursing.

The Intercept reached out to ICE, CoreCivic, the Stewart County Sheriff’s Workplace, Homeland Safety’s CRCL workplace, and the nurse for touch upon the CRCL grievance and allegations of misconduct. In a press release, CoreCivic mentioned the 2 girls who reported sexual assault allegations within the facility had been supplied medical, psychological well being, and emotional assist companies throughout the administrative investigation and that they had been launched from the power earlier than the investigation was accomplished.

“The investigation concerning [the nurse] decided one girl’s declare was unsubstantiated, and the opposite was unfounded,” CoreCivic mentioned in a press release, saying that no additional allegations had emerged. “The protection, well being and well-being of the people entrusted to our care is our high precedence.”

“It’s CoreCivic coverage to aggressively examine all allegations, whatever the supply, and assist prosecution for many who are concerned in incidents of sexual abuse,” the corporate mentioned. “Alleged victims of sexual abuse will likely be offered a supportive and protecting surroundings.”

The CRCL workplace and the Stewart County Sheriff’s Workplace didn’t reply to detailed questions.


Illustration: Vicky Leta for The Intercept

Maria advised The Intercept that after the nurse requested her to lie down, he leaned over to look at her and commenced rubbing his crotch towards her arm. When she sat up, he advised her he wanted to take heed to her coronary heart first and instructed her to raise up her shirt. She reluctantly obliged, changing into more and more nervous. The nurse mentioned he was going to examine her coronary heart after which proceeded to the touch her breasts with the stethoscope in his hand, the grievance says.

After he took her to a different workplace, the place he continued to the touch her, the grievance reads, the nurse allowed her to go away, and Maria reported her expertise to a CoreCivic workers member.

“I assumed it was the worst that would have occurred to me,” Maria mentioned. “However the days forward had been even more durable.”

Within the following days, Maria describes within the grievance that she was interviewed by CoreCivic and ICE officers. Based on the grievance, she says a CoreCivic official accused her of mendacity, and an official allegedly mentioned she could be given “seven years in jail” if she continued together with her report, additionally accusing her of mendacity. Based on the CRCL grievance, a CoreCivic worker additionally hit the desk in entrance of her throughout an interview, and, over the course of every week, “she was subjected to repeated interrogations and accusations that she was mendacity.”

Whereas there are techniques ostensibly in place for detained girls to file inner complaints with separate ICE and DHS workplaces, Maria advised The Intercept that the telephones meant to attach girls to reporting hotlines weren’t working.

An inner evaluate by the Southern Poverty Legislation Heart of detainee medical information confirmed the nurse was seeing sufferers as lately as late as Might of this 12 months.

For some medical professionals, abuses tied to the supply of medical care represent significantly grave violations. “You go to a medical supplier with a way of belief,” mentioned Amy Zeidan, a professor at Emory College Faculty of Drugs who has reviewed dozens of medical circumstances at Stewart and seemed over the testimonies of the 4 girls. “And that particular person utterly abuses that belief.”

Laura, one other girl detained in Stewart who additionally tells her story within the grievance, had been affected by extreme abdomen ache and made a number of requests for medical consideration. She mentioned she was not seen by medical workers for a month. (She additionally requested to see a psychologist and was made to attend months earlier than she was seen.) Attending to her medical request, after the monthlong wait, was the identical nurse who allegedly assaulted Maria.

Through the course of his examination, Laura mentioned, the nurse put a stethoscope beneath her bra, touching her breasts with the stethoscope and his palms in a way that she mentioned deviated from previous procedures she had skilled. He then advised her to drag her pants down and put the stethoscope close to her groin. As he touched her, he repeatedly pulled down his masks and chuckled, and she or he felt like he was “flirting,” she advised The Intercept. She additionally mentioned he checked out her in what she described as a sexually suggestive method whereas analyzing a painful bump on her leg. “The way in which he checked out me, it was so gross,” she mentioned. Throughout a second examination, she mentioned, the nurse once more instructed her to raise her shirt up and decrease her pants, touching her chest and under her waist.

Paperwork reviewed by The Intercept present that Laura reported her allegations to not less than three well being care workers members, impartial of one another, in early January. The medical information learn that Laura was independently “evaluated by Psychological Well being, LIP” — a licensed impartial practitioner — “and nursing workers.” Laura described her allegations in depth to all three workers members, with one even noting her worry of retaliation: “[Patient] mentioned she didn’t alert safety as a result of she was afraid of getting in hassle.”

After talking with the three well being care workers members, officers had been alerted of a doable violation of the Jail Rape Elimination Act, or PREA, the grievance says. Laura mentioned that within the days that adopted, two ICE officers threatened her, saying that there could be penalties if she was mendacity, and, once more, that she may face seven years in jail for doing so. CoreCivic officers additionally started an investigation and interviewed Laura. As a result of ICE threats and her worry of retaliation, she determined that she didn’t wish to proceed with an official grievance, she advised The Intercept.

“The worker was positioned on administrative depart till the investigation was accomplished and information decided, as is normal apply,” CoreCivic mentioned in its assertion. “The 2 detainees making these claims had been supplied acceptable medical and psychological well being companies, emotional assist companies, and solutions to any questions they’d concerning the investigative course of.”

In her remaining months at Stewart, Laura mentioned, “I couldn’t sleep, I may barely eat. I had fallen into despair. I used to be sick. The therapy is horrible.” Data obtained by The Intercept via a Freedom of Info Act request present — the DHS database — that officers at CRCL had been notified of two studies from two girls, alleging sexual abuse by a medical workers member.

The 2 different girls within the CRCL grievance, Viviana and Marta, additionally allege related conduct by the nurse. For each Viviana and Marta, he had them take away their shirts throughout an examination. With Marta, the grievance says, he additionally advised her to take away her bra.

“The way during which he engaged with sufferers was not indicated, exterior the scope of his apply, and in violation of the medical ethics required of a healthcare skilled throughout patient-provider encounters,” the CRCL grievance reads. “Whereas it is not uncommon to auscultate (hear) to coronary heart and lung sounds with a stethoscope, it doesn’t require a affected person to take away or raise up their shirt and expose their breasts and positively doesn’t require elimination of the bra.”


Illustration: Vicky Leta for The Intercept

Allegations of sexual assault and harassment — like these levied by Maria, Laura, Viviana, and Marta — will not be new to the power. Inspection studies about Stewart reviewed by The Intercept, though restricted in nature, tally not less than 27 studies of sexual assault in Stewart between 2017 and early 2021 — previous to an inflow of girls. Not less than three of these had been accusations made towards workers. The newest inspection report from Stewart, which covers Might 2021 to Might 2022, reveals there have been 14 studies of alleged sexual abuse, eight of them by workers. Two of the allegations of sexual assault by workers had been substantiated, and one allegation towards a detainee was additionally substantiated.

Based on an inner DHS Workplace of Inspector Normal doc from a 2017 inspection, guards at Stewart “lacked in-depth coaching” in tips specified by the 2003 Jail Rape Elimination Act, which units requirements to stop and tackle sexual assault in carceral services. Since its opening in 2006, Stewart has undergone two PREA audits: one in 2017 and one in 2021.

Based on the Stewart Detention Heart’s contract, ICE and the Stewart County Sheriff’s Workplace should be notified of all PREA-related studies. In response to a public information request submitted to the sheriff’s workplace, The Intercept discovered that there have been not less than six official studies of alleged sexual assaults in an eight-month interval, from July 2021 till April 2022. The sheriff’s workplace didn’t present information for the opposite eight circumstances of alleged sexual assault at Stewart listed within the ICE inspection report.

The one method detainees may press prices was if a CoreCivic official drove them to the sheriff’s workplace.

4 of the complaints obtained from the sheriff’s workplace explicitly state that they had been investigated “in home,” that means that exterior authorities didn’t become involved. In a single report, it’s written “no prices filed right now” and on one other, merely and with no additional element, “reported Prea case to Sheriff workplace by cellphone.”

On March 24, a grievance was shared with the sheriff’s workplace that merely said: “Employees v Detainee Prea Case. Case dealt with in home.” CoreCivic mentioned in its assertion that their inner investigation into this grievance discovered the allegation to be “unfounded.”

Throughout a cellphone interview, Stewart County Sheriff Larry Jones confirmed that CoreCivic investigated these six circumstances on their very own, stating that the sheriff’s workplace would solely become involved if somebody needed to press prices. The one method they may press prices, nevertheless, was if a CoreCivic official drove them to the sheriff’s workplace. “We don’t like going out and in of the power. We attempt to avoid there as a lot as doable due to Covid,” Jones mentioned. He added, “Mainly, there have been so many small circumstances, PREA circumstances, it was overloading the courtroom. [CoreCivic] recommended they might deal with as many circumstances as doable inside the facility.”

Since Stewart started locking up immigrants in 2006, advocacy teams have frequently referred to as for it to be shuttered, pointing to its harsh situations. From 2008 to 2012, a collection of advocacy studies and inner critiques discovered poor situations on the detention middle, with points in medical care to abuse of self-discipline and lack of meals high quality.

In 2017, Mission South revealed a report highlighting the worsening situations, particularly with medical care and guards’ use of solitary confinement. For years, the power has been criticized for being understaffed, with DHS Workplace of Inspector Normal studies in each 2017 and 2021 highlighting the shortage of certified medical professionals.

In 2018, CoreCivic was hit with a lawsuit by individuals detained in Stewart and advocacy organizations, claiming that detained immigrants had been pressured to labor inside the power for as little as $1 a day, and that those that refused had been threatened with solitary confinement. (The lawsuit is ongoing; CoreCivic denied the labor abuses.) As we speak, a lot of the work to wash, cook dinner, and keep the power continues to be carried out by detained individuals.

Previously 5 years, Stewart has had the best variety of deaths of any facility in the complete ICE detention community. Deaths at Stewart have steadily mounted for its total decade-and-a-half historical past, stemming from alleged negligence, medical points, psychological well being points that didn’t get the correct consideration, and extra.

In 2008, two years after Stewart opened, Pedro Gumayagay, a migrant from the Philippines, died whereas in custody there. The next 12 months, Roberto Medina-Martinez, additionally detained in Stewart, died of a coronary heart situation, which was resulting from, based on a lawsuit, the “federal authorities’s negligence.” (The federal government settled with Medina’s widow; the phrases are undisclosed.)

In 2017, after spending 19 days in a tiny solitary confinement cell, 27-year-old Jean Jimenez-Joseph died by suicide regardless of a name to a hotline for psychological well being assist, demonstrating that CoreCivic and ICE officers knew of his worsening psychological well being. Months later, 33-year-old Yulio Castro-Garrido died of pneumonia, a lung an infection, and viral influenza, regardless of having no well being issues when first being transferred to Stewart.

In July 2018, Efraín Romero de la Rosa died by suicide in Stewart after correctional workers positioned him in solitary confinement with out following correct protocols, uncared for his psychological sickness, and falsified paperwork. (In its assertion, CoreCivic mentioned: “Solitary confinement, whether or not as a time period or apply, doesn’t exist at any of the services we function.” There may be overwhelming documented proof of solitary confinement cells in Stewart, together with housing plan information in addition to images and movies of solitary models and cells obtained and revealed by The Intercept.)

Through the first 12 months of the Covid-19 pandemic, officers counted not less than 1,400 confirmed circumstances in Stewart — at one level, almost 20 p.c of the detainee inhabitants was contaminated. Not less than 4 individuals died of issues from the virus whereas detained on the facility.

Along with the best variety of Covid deaths of any ICE detention middle, officers in Stewart recurrently ignored primary well being protocols meant to maintain individuals from contracting the virus. When the virus started to unfold, migrants demanded private protecting gear and primary hygiene gadgets. On two events, in a two-week interval, guards responded to the calls for by deploying a SWAT-like “particular response” unit, which then pepper-sprayed migrants, fired pepperball ammunition, and positioned individuals in solitary confinement.

One other investigation from The Intercept discovered that a lot of these officers joked concerning the use-of-force on social media and celebrated the violence. ICE launched an inner investigation into the drive and inappropriate social media utilization. The findings haven’t been shared with the general public.

“It’s actually unlucky that the administration has taken the choice to maintain this place open when it was absolutely conscious of the tragedies which have taken place at this ICE jail through the years, whether or not or not it’s deaths or human rights violations,” mentioned Azadeh Shahshahani, authorized and advocacy director at Mission South. “It’s on them to stop future tragedies, and it’s absolutely of their management to close this place down.”

Maria, Viviana, Laura, and Marta, the ladies within the CRCL grievance, are out of detention, ready for his or her immigration circumstances to proceed. Regardless of Maria and Laura’s preliminary studies of misconduct, and regardless of CRCL being made conscious of  allegations towards the nurse in January, the ladies say they haven’t been contacted by DHS, ICE, nor CoreCivic officers to proceed the investigation into the alleged assault and harassment.

“What I would like, most of all, is that if the nurse is there, what I would like is for him to not be there. As a result of I don’t need anybody else to undergo that,” Viviana mentioned.

Maria echoed the sentiment: “I typically suppose I’d have most popular staying in my nation than to have this reminiscence for my total life. My nation — the place we don’t have meals, the place you need to stand in line to eat, the place I needed to finish my research. I would favor to undergo all of that reasonably than being abused once more.”


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