ICE Retaliates Against Hutto Detainee?

Laura Monterrosa says she was sent to solitary confinement

ICE Retaliates Against Hutto Detainee?
Photo by Jana Birchum

After accusing a T. Don Hutto detention center guard of sexual abuse, immigrant detainee Laura Monterrosa was held in solitary confinement for 60 hours last weekend as an act of retaliation by ICE, according to advocacy group Grassroots Leadership, who say Monterrosa was told she would not be released until she publicly stated no sexual abuse occurred.

Since Monterrosa’s revelation last November, ICE and for-profit detention center managers CoreCivic have increased punishment tactics with discipline and verbal aggression. Monterrosa attempted to take her own life by ingesting 51 pain pills left on Jan. 11. “I feel very desperate because I tried to report the abuse from ICE and facility officials, but they continue to psychologically abuse me through intimidation,” she said last month. “I do not feel safe or secure. I am not receiving the medical treatment or help I need.” Last week, an ICE official identified as “Soto” demanded she call Grassroots’ Bethany Carson and tell her she would no longer work with them; and that if she did not recant her story of sexual abuse to the media, she would face solitary confinement indefinitely, the organization claims.

“This should not be happening in America,” said Claudia Muñoz, an immigration programs director at Grassroots. “Here you have a woman who came forward to report rampant sexual abuse inside of a federal facility. Instead of protecting her, and ensuring the abuse stops, ICE is now putting Laura in solitary confinement with the expressed intent of tearing her down so she will do as they say.”

Responding to the allegations, ICE regional spokesperson Nina Pruneda did not refer to “solitary confinement” but said Monterrosa was taken to a “medical unit” on Feb. 9 for “evaluation” and “close observation” after staff became aware of a self-reported medical situation. ICE offered to transfer Monterrosa to another facility but she declined the offer, Pruneda said. Carson said Monterrosa did not receive substantial medical treatment and was instead taken to a secluded room in a different part of the facility that ICE and CoreCivic “never admit actually exists.”

Dozens of community members protested at the detention center on Wednesday, and several met with Monterrosa personally. In December, the FBI took over the Monterrosa investigation from the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office. (The DOJ declined to comment on her case.) Immigration advocates are additionally calling on the Taylor Police Department to investigate the case for obstruction of justice and witness tampering. Taylor Police Chief Henry Fluck tells the Chronicle the department has declined to investigate, pointing to the FBI’s ongoing review.

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