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Allegations of Sexual Abuse at Immigrant Detention Center

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT
Hundreds of undocumented immigrants are detained at the Karnes County Residential Center in South Texas

Immigration advocates say whistleblowers are reporting sexual assault by guards at a privately run immigrant detention center in South Texas. The Karnes County Residential Center is run by GEO Group.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and attorneys at the University of Texas School of Law have filed a complaintwith the federal government. It comes on the heels of a separate complaint last week alleging detainees have inadequate access to food, telephones and appropriate conditions to care for their children. 

In the latest complaint, MALDEF and the attorneys allege GEO guards are having sex with detainees, groping them in front of children, and calling the women detainees their "girlfriends." 

"This is a prime example of what happens when you detain children with their mothers in a detention facility that is run by a prison corporation that has no child welfare expertise and no oversight," says Barbara Hines, co-director of the immigration clinic at the UT School of Law.

GEO Group disputes the allegations and the lack of oversight, saying in an email that the facility in Karnes County "provides a safe, clean, and family friendly environment for mothers and children." GEO says onsite personnel with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement "provide direct oversight."

KUTtoured theKarnesfacilitybefore any detainees were there. We also spoke with the first womanreleased from the detention center.

KUT was scheduled to visit the Karnes facility again next week, but GEO Group has postponed the tour indefinitely.   

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at nbernier@kut.org. Follow him on X @KUTnathan.
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