By Julie Kruse, Immigration Project Director, NCTE
The White House rolled out its “It’s on Us” campaign last week to end sexual assault on college campuses. The “1 is 2 Many” video, featuring the President, the Vice President and various celebrities pledging to intervene to stop sexual assault, is very moving and inspiring.
Thirty years ago, I fought to end rampant sexual assault on my college campus. It seemed almost an undercover effort. Sorority members would anonymously tell us of gang rapes they knew were occurring in the Greek system. Since I was an officer of the group organizing against campus rape, the Dean of Students called me at my home, not to ask how we could work together to stop sexual assault, but to ask what was planned at demonstrations. The police increased their patrols of campus – not to stop rape, but to stop the graffiti warnings at campus crime sites that “a person was raped here.”
With news reports routinely emerging now about sexual assaults on campuses, it seems that in thirty years, not much has changed – except that the information, and outrage, is out in the public. Yet now, someone in authority is taking the issue seriously. In April, the Department of Education issued guidance that colleges and schools that do not respond promptly and effectively to sexual violence against students are in violation of Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in educational settings. The next day, the Department released a list of colleges and universities under investigation for such violations.
In a major breakthrough, in the same guidance, the Department of Education made it clear that federal Title IX law prohibits discrimination (including harassment and assault) against transgender students.
NCTE applauds the administration’s efforts to end harassment, discrimination, and violence against transgender students on campuses.
There are other institutions more directly under the administration’s control that also have a terrible problem of a culture of sexual assault, where transgender people routinely suffer assault and abuse, and the torture of solitary confinement – the immigration detention system.
A transgender immigrant named Marichuy, who has been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for over a year at a for-profit detention center in Eloy, Arizona, was recently sexually assaulted by her male cellmate. Instead of “responding promptly and effectively to sexual violence” staff pressured her to sign a statement that the rape was consensual. #not1more has a petition calling for her release.
NCTE and many other advocates have worked for six years with the administration and ICE to try to stop the abuse and torture of transgender inmates in detention centers. While ICE has touted new rules to prevent abuse, those rules have not changed the culture of abuse, assault, and torture of transgender detainees.
The President has announced he will issue a new policy of immigration relief after the November elections. For this policy to be truly protective of transgender people, the President must end the draconian and unsafe overuse of immigration detention. He must dramatically reduce the numbers of immigrants detained. He must end abuses in detention, and specifically, he must simply end the detention of transgender immigrants because ICE has proved time and again that it cannot house transgender immigrants safely. ICE must not detain transgender immigrants behind bars; it must release them, as it currently does on a case by case basis. It is the only method ICE has found to end the enormous abuses these detainees face. If absolutely necessary, ICE could monitor transgender immigrants through ankle bracelets or community supervision– but the detention must end.
In its new initiative against sexual assault, the administration has called on all of us: “Don’t just be a bystander – if you see something, intervene in any way you can.”
NCTE will intervene. We will fight to end sexual abuse on campuses and in schools. And we will fight to end the unsafe detention of transgender immigrants.
Because it’s on us. One is too many.