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Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) welcomes the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) release of proposed Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) regulations, an important step toward ensuring basic human rights protections for immigrants in detention.

“We congratulate the administration for issuing this proposed rule, a significant milestone in the ongoing fight to restore humanity to our nation’s immigration system,” said NIJC Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy. “NIJC’s clients and thousands of other men and women urgently need this law to protect them from sexual assault in detention and give them somewhere to turn if they become victims.”

PREA, which passed Congress in 2003 with strong bipartisan support, set a zero-tolerance standard for prison rape and created guidelines to hold correctional facilities accountable for protecting inmates. In May 2012, President Obama and the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that PREA’s protections must be extended to all people in federal custody, including immigrants in DHS custody. The announcement was made amid mounting evidence that detained immigrants are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence. In 2011, NIJC submitted a mass civil rights complaint on behalf of 17 sexual minority detained immigrants who were targeted for abuse while in DHS custody. Other reports also have exposed the breadth of the problem, including an investigation by The Advocate newspaper which revealed ongoing abuses against transgender detainees.

“NIJC looks forward to reviewing the regulations when they become publicly available in the next few days, and are hopeful that they meet the standard set by DOJ to stop sexual assault and rape in the detention system,” McCarthy said.

The public will have 60 days to submit comments to DHS once the PREA regulations become available.