NCTE Leads Effort to End LGBTI Sexual Abuse in Immigration Detention

Ana-Haydee Urda (left front) in the rally against private prisons was sponsored by United Methodist Women and the United Methodist Task Force on Immigration. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey.

Ana-Haydee Urda (left front) in the 2012 rally against private prisons sponsored by United Methodist Women and the United Methodist Task Force on Immigration. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey.

Last week, the National Center for Transgender Equality, with our partners at Just Detention International  led advocacy efforts urging Secretary Napolitano and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to strengthen protections against sexual abuse of LGBT people and people with intersex conditions in immigration detention. In addition to organizing over 800 individual comments and dozens of organizational comments, NCTE joined eight other national LGBT and allied groups in filing over 30 pages of public comments on the proposed regulations that address this problem, which is part of the implementation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act.

Sexual abuse of LGBT people and people with intersex conditions violates their basic human rights. The U.S. government has an obligation to provide safe and humane conditions for people in confinement. Not doing so impedes detainee’s ability to obtain lawful immigration status when eligible and to successfully adjust back into the community. Additionally, public health considerations like the widespread transmission of HIV and the growing rates of depression, anxiety and suicide ideation among immigration detainees demand swift action by the Department of Homeland Security.

While the proposed regulations represent an important step toward ending the victimization of people in immigration detention facilities, NCTE and other advocates identified several flaws that hamper the effectiveness of the regulations, both overall and with respect to the specific vulnerabilities of LGBTI detainees. Primarily, we are urging Secretary Napolitano to require comprehensive training for all facility staff; provide appropriate search and housing procedures  for LGBTI  detainees; and ensure that the final rules apply to all immigration detention facilities without delay.

Other recommendations include:

  1. Ensuring that all of the regulation’s rules apply to agency contractors in order to close the gap of implementation in contracted immigration detention facilities;
  2. Prohibiting facility policies that punish or prevent detainees’ gender expression, or restrict access to medical or mental healthcare, in the name of preventing abuse; and
  3. Creating administrative timelines and processes to prevent detainees from being held in isolation indefinitely.

View the submitted public comments in full below or download it here.

NCTE is hopeful that the Department of Homeland Security will carefully consider the comments and incorporate them into the final rule, which is expected to be published in the coming months. However in addition to calling for the reform in immigration detention, NCTE affirms efforts to expand alternatives to costly and inhumane detention, and joins the broader movement for reforming our nation’s immigration system.

NCTE will continue to be vocal about the need to reform immigration detention so that it more closely resembles what it was built to be: a civil and humane process that is used only when truly necessary to facilitate immigration court proceedings.

View this document on Scribd

Download NCTE’s resource “LGBT People and the Prison Rape Elimination Act.”

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