Workers at an immigrant holding facility in Texas have sexually abused female detainees and fondled them in front of people, including children, according to a letter sent by lawyers to US officials. The letter calls for "an immediate investigation" and received an immediate denial from Geo Group Inc, the company that runs the Karnes County Residential Center, CNN reports. The center "provides a safe, clean, and family-friendly environment for mothers and children awaiting required processing," says a Geo Group executive. But according to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, workers have taken "numerous" women from their cells at night and abused them.
At least three workers are allegedly behind it, getting sex in exchange for money or promises to help the women. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement won't comment on the letter, but says it "has a zero-tolerance policy for all forms of sexual abuse or assault." ICE opened Karnes and another facility this summer, with 1,100 beds between them, amid a 500% increase in families crossing into the US, NBC News reports. Officials had all but banned such facilities after a lawsuit accused them of mistreating children, but now the Department of Homeland Security plans a new 2,400-bed facility in Texas. Along with a smaller Pennsylvania center, they add up to "the largest family detention system the country has ever had," says NBC News. (Read more illegal immigration stories.)