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TribBlog: Hutto Detention Center Back in the Spotlight

The Hutto immigration detention center is under scrutiny again after a guard at the private facility was accused of sexual assault.

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The U.S. immigration detention system came under fresh attack on Tuesday as advocacy groups publicly lamented the most recent allegation of detainee abuse in a private Texas facility.

A guard at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor is accused of sexually abusing female detainees, according to statements by the ACLU of Texas and Grassroots Leadership. The suspect works for Corrections Corporation of America, a private-prison company under contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to operate the detention center for immigration detainees, including asylum seekers. The suspect reportedly groped several women and solicited sex from another.

The groups point to the allegation as yet another casualty of the Obama administration’s failure to come through on its promise for immigration detention reform.

“The continued occurrence of sexual assault in immigration detention facilities demonstrates the need for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to move more aggressively in implementing reforms like improving detention standards, strengthening federal oversight of private providers like GEO and CCA, or better yet, eliminating the use of contract providers altogether,” said Lisa Graybill, the ACLU of Texas’ legal director.

Bob Libal, Grassroots Leadership’s Texas coordinator, said he hoped the latest allegation at the troubled facility would spur the administration into action.

“(Obama’s) administration should immediately take steps to scale back its growing and out-of-control detention system," said Libal.

The number of cases backlogged in the immigration-detention system has reached its all-time high despite the government’s own admission last year that the system is in need of an overhaul. The allegation comes on the heels of the April sentencing of former guard Roberto Luis Loya to three years in prison. Loya was convicted of sexually assaulting female detainees at ICE’s Port Isabel Detention Center in Los Fresnos.

The Hutto facility is already infamous to advocacy groups and the Texas immigrant community. In 2007 the ACLU and the University of Texas Immigration Clinic sued the facility over its methods of confinement of children. Following a settlement agreement, the facility stopped housing children.

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