On Monday, the U.S. government deported a key witness in an ongoing investigation into the sexual assault and harassment at an El Paso immigrant detention center, according to the witness' lawyer.
The 35-year-old woman was being held in the facility, overseen by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), for about a year and was a crucial witness to the "pattern and practice" of sexual abuse she and other detainees faced in the facility in areas that were hidden from security cameras.
Guards Forcibly Kissed Her, Touched Her Private Parts
The woman alleged that several guards "forcibly" kissed her, and at least one touched her intimate parts, according to a complaint filed with law enforcement agencies. She also said that a guard once told her that if she "behaved," he would help with her release.
The Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General launched an official investigation into the accusations, following which two more women came forward with similar allegations of assault.
The inspector general requested ICE not to deport the woman as she was being interviewed by multiple agencies, including the FBI, over the allegations, according to her lawyers.
The lawyers also filed a petition in federal court asking that the woman be freed on supervised release to a different facility after guards and inmates at the El Paso facility started making intimidating comments to her following her accusations and that she felt unsafe.
DHS Reversed its Decision, Told ICE to Deport the Woman
Three days after the petition was filed, the DHS inspector general reversed its earlier position and told ICE that it could deport the woman and investigators would carry out the remainder of the investigation over telephone while she's in Mexico if necessary, her lawyers said.
Within hours, she had been sent back even though she says she fears persecution from drug cartels there. A high-ranking cartel member sexually assaulted her and threatened her after she reported the attack to police, according to statements she gave the U.S. government.
The government "allowed their most powerful witness to be deported," said her lawyer, Linda Corchado. "How can we possibly take this investigation seriously now or ever pretend that it ever was from the outset?"