PRESS RELEASE: Court rules against Berks ICE facility, finding that immigrant detainees have the constitutional right to be protected from sexual assault by staff.

July 3, 2019

CONTACT: Rebecca Susman,, 412-254-4771

The US Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit issued an important ruling in favor of our client, E.D., upholding the constitutional rights of immigrants held at the Berks Residential Family Center and affirming that the laws protecting incarcerated people from abuse also apply to those held within the ICE facility.

The Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project represents E.D., a Honduran woman who, after fleeing violence and sexual assault, was detained at Berks Residential Family Center while seeking asylum with her three-year-old son. E.D. was sexually assaulted by immigration staff member Daniel Sharkey during her detention at the ICE facility. He was ultimately convicted of the institutional sexual assault. Other employees at the immigration detention center were aware of the ongoing harassment and abuse but did not try to intervene or stop the assault. The case, E.D. v Sharkey, is against Daniel Sharkey, as well as other Berks County employees for their failure to protect E.D. from abuse.

Affirming the rights of immigrants in ICE detention, the Court held that constitutional protections against sexual assault do apply to people detained at the Berks ICE facility and, while in custody, they cannot consent to sexual contact with employees. The Court additionally found that supervisors, personnel, and colleagues have a duty to monitor known sexual misconduct between employees and detainees and to intervene. In affirming the opinion of the District Court allowing E.D.’s claims to proceed, the Third Circuit held: "we necessarily address whether immigration detainees are entitled to the same constitutional protections afforded by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment as pre-trial detainees. We hold that immigration detainees are entitled to such protections.” (Opinion at 3)

“We are pleased that the Third Circuit has confirmed that immigration detainees have the same constitutional protections as other detainees, including the right to be free of sexual assault from a government employee while confined.” stated Su Ming Yeh, Deputy Director of the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project

Read the 3rd Circuit Opinion here
Full press release here