By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief
DUBLIN, CA – After sharing their stories with officials of sexual abuse at the Federal Correctional Institute here, some of the noncitizen/undocumented women are being deported, according to Lisa Fernandez, a reporter for KTVU in the SF Bay Area.
Noting the “sex abuse between officers and incarcerated women at the Federal Correctional Institute at Dublin is well known—it’s been the subject of congressional hearings and earned it share of national headlines,” the deportations remain in the “shadows,” said KTVU.
In fact, KTVU reports about three dozen women have been or about to be deported even though their lawyers argue they could receive citizenship as “sexual assault survivors or witnesses of this abuse” under a special “U-Visa,” meant to protect and encourage crime victims to come forward without fear of deportation.
KTVU said, “Immigrant rights advocates argue that the women have suffered enough – including retaliation in prison for coming forward – and have helped the federal government charge five correctional officers with sex crimes, leading to four convictions so far,” including that of the former warden.
“It’s not fair. The federal government has a responsibility and a duty to individuals who they hold in their custody. And federal employees committed these crimes. The federal government has to support those women to get the services they need and prevent deportation. This is just an additional layer of egregiousness when the crimes are perpetrated by federal police themselves,” said Dolores Street Community Services deportation defense attorney Andrea Reyes Corena in a recent interview.
A coalition of about 120 human rights organizations and prison rights advocates allege about 35 women who claim they were sexually abused at FCI Dublin, or provided testimony to federal investigators are now facing deportation.
The coalition said more than 140 women have reported sexual abuse at FCI Dublin over the past five years, and at least seven women who said they were assaulted have already been kicked out of the U.S., and another nine prison sex survivors are awaiting deportation by ICE when they get out of prison.
“Federal employees specifically targeted non-citizen women because they knew that they had language limitations and might not report them or that they were going to get deported and then not be a problem for them,” Corena said, according to the KTVU story.
Federal prosecutors apparently signed a U-Visa for a woman named “Maria,” who was abused by the former FCI Dublin Warden Ray Garcia and who testified at this trial, said KTVU.
Former warden Garcia was convicted of seven counts of sexual abuse and one count of lying to the FBI .
“The federal prosecutors have intervened for some cases,” Corena said in a KTVU interview, adding, “They have intervened to ask ICE to release some of the women who have testified, but not all. The federal prosecutors seem to focus primarily on individuals who they believe might be the most assistance to them.”
“There are some women whose stories will never be vetted because the officer who allegedly sexually assaulted them is dead,” said KTVU.
For instance, several women who claim they were assaulted by former FCI Dublin correctional officer Nicholas Ramos are now facing deportation, the coalition of attorneys said, and federal investigators have refused to even interview these women, the attorneys said.
Ramos died by suicide in August 2022, about six months after he and two dozen others were placed on leave as authorities investigated him for alleged sexual misconduct, according to the KTVU story.
“They say, well, there’s nothing that we can investigate at this point,” Corena said. “But that doesn’t change the fact that they were still victims of these crimes.”
Corena added she understands prosecutors don’t want to be seen exchanging testimony for visas, but told KTVU “this approach could also backfire, and have a chilling effect on future cases. Noncitizen women may not want to provide information and testimony about sexual abusers in prison, especially because the retaliation they face after reporting these allegations has been swift and severe.
“I think the government not showing a clear stand at supporting these women in a way that is robust,” Corena said, “will really prevent more non-citizen women to come forward.”