Two Guatemalan women now living in Fresno say they were sexually assaulted by a Customs and Border Protection officer in Texas, and now the women are seeking $1.5 million in damages.
The ACLU's Fresno office is representing the women, filing a claim against the Department of Homeland Security. They say the goal is, not only to compensate the young women but to shed light on such abuses.
The teenaged sisters were trying to join their mother in Fresno when they left Guatemala, traveling 1,500 miles through Mexico to the Texas border. They flagged down a US Border Patrol officer, were taken into custody, and were brought to a station in Presidio, Texas.
"They were asked to remove all of their clothing, and the officer inappropriately touched each sister," said Angelica Salceda, the family's attorney. "The oldest at the time was 19, the youngest 17."
Salceda, with the American Civil Liberties Union, says the women complained to other officers and their claims appeared to have been taken seriously.
"So, an investigator actually ended up going to that office where the girls were," Salceda said. "They were there for about three days, and then they were released under an order of supervision and put on a bus from Texas to Fresno.
The ACLU has filed a claim, to find out the results of the investigation and to seek $750,000 in damages for each woman.
The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Customs and Border Protection, isn't commenting. Don Riding, the former director of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Field Office in Fresno, does not have information about this case but believes the Border Agents are not bad guys.
"Almost all of the border patrol agents are really good people who care about the people they arrest," he said. "But they care about the job they do."
However, Riding adds "anytime you've got 15,000 to 20,000 people working for you, you are going to have a few bad apples."
Salceda is concerned with the Trump Administration's rush to hire more Border Patrol officers, it could mean more bad apples.
"We really do want reforms with CBP," she said. "We know that there is a move to hire 5,000 more border patrol officers, there really needs to be an acknowledgment that there are problems with these agencies and officers and there have to be reforms."
The sisters are currently under an order of supervision and living with their mother in Fresno, who is a legal resident.
Fresno ACLU files claim on behalf of women who say they were sexually assaulted by Border Patrol agent
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