Texas immigrant detention center rife
with abuse, groups say
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[October 03, 2014]
By Jim Forsyth
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - A large detention
center holding hundreds of Central American women and children near San
Antonio should be shut down amid accusations that guards have sexually
abused and harassed detainees, human rights groups said on Thursday.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement denied the allegations
brought by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and
other groups about the Karnes Detention Center southeast of San
GEO Group Inc, which runs the center, issued a statement also
denying the charges.
The center opened on Aug. 1 and houses more than 500 women and
children detained after fleeing violence and persecution in Central
The groups said detention center guards took women from their cells
at night and early in the morning to engage in sex acts.
ICE spokeswoman Adelina Pruneda said the agency has a zero tolerance
policy for sexual abuse and assault. "Individuals in our custody are
housed and treated in a safe, secure and humane manner," she said.
The women also have been subjected to demands for sexual favors in
exchange for promises of money, help with immigration cases and
shelter when and if they are released, the groups said.
"This is exactly why the federal government should not be in the
business of detaining families," said Marisa Bono, a staff attorney
The groups said the federal government should close the center and
find alternatives to detaining immigrants who have committed no
crime except for illegal entry. Detainees who meet asylum claims
should be released on bond, they said.
The groups, which filed a complaint with ICE on Sept. 25, also said
the Karnes center has inadequate food, health and mental health
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"GEO strongly refutes these allegations. The Karnes County
Residential Center provides a safe, clean, and family friendly
environment for mothers and children awaiting required processing by
the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency," the Boca
Raton, Florida-based company said in the statement.
It said the center provides high quality care and that ICE personnel
on the site provide direct oversight to ensure compliance with
GEO Group says on its website it is the world's leading provider of
correctional and detention management and community reentry services
to federal, state and local government agencies. It has operations
in the United States, Australia, South Africa and Britain.
(Reporting by Jim Forsyth in San Antonio; Editing by Eric Walsh)
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