Last week, the National Journal reported that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) will pursue requests from 30 members of Congress to investigate alleged sexual violence and abuse within facilities that hold immigration detainees. The GAO investigation comes in light of numerous complaints filed by the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) and other organizations on behalf of LGBT immigrants who were sexually abused while in custody of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). LGBT advocates welcomed the investigation while also pressing the Department of Justice to release long-delayed national rules to prevent sexual abuse in detention, and to ensure those rules apply to DHS facilities.
Since 2009, NCTE has worked closely with Immigration Equality, NIJC and many other human rights advocates to address pervasive abuse and neglect of LGBT immigrant detainees, including physical and sexual abuse, prolonged isolation, and denial of needed transition-related and HIV-related medical care. Despite DHS’s promises of reform, detainees and their advocates on the ground report that these abuses have continued unabated. DHS has actively opposed the application of new federal rules under the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) to its facilities.
“Abuse in detention is a national crisis and one that disproportionately affects transgender people,” said NCTE Policy Counsel Harper Jean Tobin. “Congress and the Obama Administration have recognized that crisis, but when it comes to immigration detention the solutions are just not being put into place. DHS needs to live up to its commitments and implement real reforms now – and part of that means embracing PREA.”
NCTE worked closely with leading prison, immigration and sexual abuse prevention advocates to ensure that final PREA rules include adequate protections for LGBT people, including placing transgender women and girls in female housing on a case-by-case basis. NCTE continues to work with allies to press for application of PREA to all types of detention facilities.