Two teenage sisters from Guatemala allege they were sexually assaulted by a US Customs and Border Protection officer in Texas in July 2016 after crossing the US-Mexico border. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed claims on behalf of the sisters on Tuesday (21 March) against the Department of Homeland Security.
The sisters, aged 17 and 19 at the time of the incident, claim that they were taken by a Border Patrol officer to a closet in the Presidio intake office, forced to remove their clothing and then sexually assaulted by the officer.
"What happened in that closet has caused me so much pain and sadness," the older sister said, according to The Los Angeles Times. "I'm telling my story because I don't want anyone else to go through this. I hope the officer will be honest about what he did and take responsibility for his actions. This is the only way we'll be able to ensure this never happens again."
The older sister, who goes under the pseudonym Clarita, said the two fled Guatemala to the US and understood they could arrested and deported. However, she believed that they would be safe. Clarita described in graphic detail how the officer took her to a windowless closet on the night of 11 July and ordered her to remove her clothes.
The officer allegedly ordered her to first remove her jumper, shirt, tank top and bra. Though she successfully pleaded to keep her bra on, the officer allegedly fondled her breast, according to the claim. After allowing her to put her top back on, the officer allegedly ordered her to remove her pants, leggings and underwear. He refused to allow her to keep her underwear on and touched her genitals with his hands, the claim states.
The younger sister said the officer asked her to do the same things. In an attempt to calm the pair when they began to cry, the officer offered them crisps and chocolates, Clarita said. "We cried a lot," Clarita told reporters, according to The Guardian. "The man was very nervous and told us to be quiet ... to stop crying."
According to the claim, the sisters reported the assault to another officer, who eventually "apologised" to them. The claim seeks $750,000 in compensation for each sister, who now live in Fresno, California with their mother. The identity of the Border Patrol officer and the two sisters are unknown.
Douglas Mosier, a CBP spokesman, told The Guardian that the agency could not comment on pending litigation. However, he added: "We do not tolerate corruption or abuse within our ranks, and we fully cooperate with any criminal or administrative investigation."
In a statement to reporters, Clarita said she had a message for the agency: "Just because we are not from here and we are fleeing, ... please have respect for us. We are human beings and we're also children."