Claudia Leiva-Deras, age 27, a mother of three children and a resident of Storm Lake, Iowa, has received an undisclosed settlement from Cass County, Nebraska for alleged indifference to her medical needs while she was being held on suspicion of immigration law violations.
Back in 2009, local police investigated complaints of domestic violence at her home. The investigation did nothing to help her as a domestic battery victim. Instead, Claudia Leiva-Deras, who is originally from Honduras, was taken into custody by federal authorities for being an illegal immigrant.
Her ordeal was far from over, because Claudia alleges she was assaulted daily by a fellow inmate for four months while in detention. Claudia says when she complained about the beatings and sexual abuse by a fellow female inmate, authorities declined to help or provide medical aid. Instead, she was given a Tylenol.
Claudia was eventually moved to an Iowa detention center in Feb 2010, where she received medical care, medication and counseling for PTSD. Things brightened up even more when she got her immigration status legalized under a U Visa. Claudia Leiva-Deras is now a legal immigrant and lives in Storm Lake, Iowa.
The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit on her behalf in January 3, 2012. It says Claudia Leiva-Deras was kicked, sexually assaulted and choked on a regular basis for four months in 2009. The victim only speaks Spanish and jail officials ignored her pleas for help and refused medical care, allegedly claiming that "immigration" did not cover the expenses.
In a statement after the settlement was reached, Cass County officials accepted no liability for any of the alleged charges in the lawsuit. They said the county was settling to avoid the legal expense of the lawsuit. But they did add that the county was not indifferent to the charges and had taken correctional measures to ensure better staff training and inmate safety.
The ACLU said this was a classic example of the dangers of the "show me your papers" immigration laws, such as SB1070 in Arizona.
Did you know?
Immigration law allows U-Visa holders to live and work in the US for up to 4 years.
Illegal immigrants who have been victims of a crime such as domestic battery can apply for a U-Visa. It enables the victim to live and work in the US for four years.