A protest was held outside of T. Don Hutto Residential Center on Wednesday morning. People are rallying behind a woman they say was held in solitary confinement for refusing to recant sex assault claims against a guard.
Civil and human rights advocates say the woman spoke out a few months ago about her abuse and because of that, they now believe Immigration and Customs Enforcement is retaliating against her.
There's a fight growing outside the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a fight for those inside. Laura Monterrosa is accusing a female guard of groping her.
"We know that there are thousands of men and women who are sexually abused in detention every single year and that usually, that results in less than 1 percent conviction rate and investigation rate for all of the cases. So for us, it's not just about Laura, it's about the larger systemic issue of sexual abuse and abuse of power that happens inside of detention centers," says Claudia Munoz, immigration programs director, Grassroots Leadership.
Monterrosa is a native of El Salvador who applied for asylum and has been detained since May. The advocacy group, Grassroots Leadership, says since she spoke out about her abuse, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been retaliating.They say just this past weekend, Monterrosa was locked in solitary confinement for 60 hours.
"She was very distraught. She told me that an officer inside of the detention center told her that she had to recant her story or else she was going to be put in solitary confinement again, indefinitely. So, she's very nervous. She's very scared because again, she has no power against any of these officers inside the detention center," says Munoz.
In December, FOX 7 reported that the FBI opened a civil rights investigation to look into Monterrosa's allegations. Advocates want her to be released.
"We are making sure it doesn't have to be any more women after this. So we're hoping to get her out, to get her in safety but then also, to promote to other women that you know, we're going to listen every time," says Texas Immigration Coalition coordinator Priscila Martinez.
The Hutto Residential Center is used to detain non-U.S. citizens awaiting the outcome of their immigration status. It has been plagued with complaints since 2007. That's when the ACLU filed more than 20 separate lawsuits challenging the conditions of confinement for immigrant children and their families there. A settlement was ultimately reached, calling for many changes. In 2009, the federal government announced that it would cease housing families at the center after a judge found it was not suitable for that use. There were concerns including: food, communication between residents and staff and staff behavior toward residents. Then in 2010, former guard Donald Dunn was arrested after being accused of groping at least eight women. Grassroots Leadership says in 2011, he pleaded guilty to state and federal charges of molesting multiple women while transporting them to the airport.
"It took many, many years to reach that conviction and it was very minimal compared to all of the people that he was able to abuse because of the power he was given over these women," says Munoz.
They hope that will change.
Grassroots Leadership had asked the Taylor Police Department to investigate this current case.
The chief tells FOX 7 this is not the role for a local police department but he has been in contact with the FBI about the situation.