Weak DHS Rules Underscore Need to End Detention of Transgender Immigrants

March 7, 2014

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) and the Transgender Law Center (TLC) express disappointment in the final standards published today by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to address the severe problem of sexual abuse in immigration detention. While the final standards contain some valuable provisions, they fall short of the minimum steps needed to address the ongoing crisis of sexual abuse in immigration detention. In particular, the standards–which are, in key respects, weaker than those adopted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in 2012 for prisons and jails–lack critical protections for transgender immigrants, who are among the most highly vulnerable to sexual abuse.

“The rules released by DHS today are not adequate to protect the safety of tens of thousands of real people who are at risk in detention every day,” said NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling. “While NCTE will work with our allies to see that the positive steps that did make it into the DHS rules are fully implemented, far more needs to be done to reform and ultimately end mass detention.”​

Olga Tomchin, Soros Justice Fellow at the Transgender Law Center said, “It is a cruel irony that trans immigrants who flee persecution and believe they will be safe in the U.S. are then often met with state violence and further retraumatized by horrific treatment based on their trans status.”

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The Trans Case for Marijuana Decriminalization

March 4, 2014

Today, the District of Columbia City Council will have their second and final vote on the Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Act of 2014. And last week, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) issued the following letter to City Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, along with all the other city council members, urging them to end mass arrests of DC residents for possession of small amounts of marijuana by voting to support this bill.

The letter states:

“[E]xtremely high rates of incarceration reflect a cycle of societal discrimination and economic marginalization faced by many transgender people, both flowing from and contributing to disproportionate rates of job loss, poverty, and homelessness. Prosecution and a criminal record for mere marijuana possession, with all the collateral consequences it carries, robs many individuals of the opportunity to overcome these social and economic barriers.”

“Though we’re pleased that the proposal is expected to pass the council’s vote today, we’re disappointed that new language in the bill doesn’t adequately address the criminalization of public smoking,” said NCTE Executive Director Mara Keisling. “Other states like Colorado and Washington recognize that tracking people down for public smoking is a misuse of public dollars, and have therefore handled this issue appropriately. The DC City Council today has the opportunity to do the same.”

Read the letter below.

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Traveling While Trans: An Airport Security Update

November 25, 2013

As of May 16, 2013, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has equipped all airport scanners with Automated Target Recognition (ATR) software. This software still scans the contours of your body under your clothes, but it doesn’t display images of your body. Instead, it automatically detects objects under your clothes and displays them as yellow blocks on a generic figure. From a privacy perspective, this is definitely an improvement, but ATR can still flag items such as binders or prosthetics as “anomalies,” and this can still lead to invasive questions and pat-downs.

TSA also continues to expand its TSA Pre-Check program—a voluntary, fee-based, pre-screening initiative that passengers can apply to participate in prior to their arrival at airport checkpoints. Participants will be able to use designated Pre-Check lanes and could be permitted to choose not to remove their shoes, toiletries, laptops, light outwear and belts as they move through security. While enrollment in the program does not guarantee that an individual will be exempt from more invasive screening measures, it may decrease the likelihood of experiencing a pat-down. TSA launched Pre-Check last year for participants in certain airlines’ elite frequent-flyer programs, and for those already enrolled in trust traveler programs through U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), such as Global Entry. Starting sometime this fall, travelers will also be able to apply to enroll directly in TSA Pre-Check by paying a fee (expected to be $85), submitting a detailed application, and providing fingerprints at a designated enrollment site. Again, this will not cure privacy issues with airport screening, but for trans folks who travels frequently this is an option worth considering.

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New Resource: Preparing for Airport Security

November 21, 2012

While most transgender and gender non-conforming people get through airport security without any incidents, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) urges travelers to understand their rights before going through airport security with our new resource Airport Security and Transgender People.

The seasonal Holiday travel uptick can mean things are more hectic and potentially confusing for travelers and for Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) than usual. Airport security practices do not allow transgender travelers to completely avoid invasive screenings or pat-downs. However, all travelers have a right to safety, privacy, and respect.

Transgender travelers should be familiar with specific protections they have at airport security including:

  1. You can opt out of body scanning machines at any time. However, travelers who opt-out of body scanning machines will be required to undergo a thorough pat-down.
  2. Transgender travelers have a right to a pat-down by an agent of the same gender as the traveler. This is based on your gender presentation. The gender on your identification documents and boarding passes should not matter for pat-downs.
  3. Travelers have a right to request that a pat-down be held in a private screening area, and with a witness or companion of the traveler’s choosing.
  4. You should not any time be subjected to personal questions about your gender, or be forced to lift, remove or raise an article of clothing to reveal a prosthetic item. Prosthetic items include binding garments and breast forms.
  5. All children under age thirteen have a right to modified screening procedures.

NCTE recommends that individuals take simple steps to ensure a smooth experience at airport security including:

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