December 19, 2014
This week the National Center for Transgender Equality joined more than 100 LGBT, immigration, and allied organizations in sending a letter urging President Obama to keep LGBT immigrants out of detention centers except in extraordinary circumstances. Other organizations joined the letter include the American Immigration Lawyers Association, National Center for Lesbian Rights, National Immigration Law Center, National LGBTQ Task Force, and PFLAG National.
The letter highlights federal and state surveys finding that LGBT prisoners face rates of rape and sexual abuse behind bars at rates 10 to 13 times as high as other prisoners. It also highlights a federal report finding that of a sample of substantiated sexual assault cases in immigration detention, 1 in 5 victims was transgender.
Photo: Jason Morgan
The letter also tells the story of Johanna, a transgender woman who like many other LGBT immigrants fled life-threatening persecution because of her identity. Johanna fled to the US following a gang rape in El Salvador, only to be raped again in immigration detention. Conditions in detention were so bad for her that she abandoned her asylum claim and agreed to deportation, but soon returned. After a second detention and deportation, she was abducted from the airport in El Salvador and again gang-raped. Salvadoran policy told her her attackers should have killed her. After a third stint of months in immigration detention, Johanna won the right to stay in the US. Months in solitary confinement and reported deportations likely cost the government up to $50,000 and subjected her to repeated sexual assaults.
As recently as last month, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) policies have recognized that certain groups of immigrants should generally not be placed in detention centers because of their vulnerability. In light of federal reports finding LGBT people are at extraordinary risk behind bars, DHS should make clear that LGBT immigrants are one of those groups. NCTE will continue to press DHS and the White House to ensure that no LGBT immigrant is needlessly placed at risk of assault behind bars.
Read the letter below.
September 22, 2014
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.
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August 22, 2014
The National Center for Transgender Equality and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) today issued a letter to President Obama urging the Administration to provide affirmative relief for individuals who have long-term residency in the United States but may not have state recognized familial relationships with citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPR), or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) holders. The letter also requests the President to advance flexible criminal background requirements in light of the high conviction rates of undocumented LGBTQ immigrants for survival crimes such as sex work.
The letter calls for LGBT inclusion as President Obama is expected to release his administrative relief package on undocumented immigrants in the coming weeks.
LGBT advocates protest deportations in New York, NY | Photo: Julieta Salgado/GetEQUAL
“Relief for undocumented Americans should not rely on separating out supposedly ‘good’ and ‘bad’ immigrants based on the circumstances they’ve faced and the choices they’ve made to get by–especially not when it would disproportionately exclude LGBT people,” said Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, NCTE Racial and Economic Justice Initiative Policy Advisor.
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August 4, 2014
Today, National Center for Transgender Equality joined nearly 60 local and national LGBT and immigrant’s rights groups in calling for the release of Marichuy Leal Gamino. Marichuy is a transgender woman and survivor of sexual assault in an Arizona for-profit immigration detention facility.
Advocates like NCTE have been in communication with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on this violent incident, and have urged DHS to release Marichuy. As NCTE Director of Policy Harper Jean Tobin notes in the letter to DHS, “Marichuy’s story illustrates why the mass detention of immigrants must end. Thousands of LGBT immigrants like Marichuy are needlessly jailed each year, and hundreds of transgender women are routinely placed in men’s jails despite the obvious danger this creates.”
The National Center for Transgender Equality and our partners will continue to advocate on behalf of Marichuy and will press for policy change as the White House prepares to take executive action to reform U.S. deportation policies.
Learn more about how immigration laws and policies affect transgender people in our report, “Our Moment for Reform
August 4, 2014
On Saturday August 2nd, hundreds of pro-immigrant groups from the around the country descended on the streets of Washington, DC calling for a halt to deportations of undocumented immigrants and for expansion of policies that allow undocumented or mixed status families to remain in the country together. The groups used the phrase “Not 1 More” as their slogan. More than 1,100 immigrants are separated from their families and communities each day through deportations according to the National Immigrant Law Center.
President Obama has the ability through a legal mechanism known as “administrative relief” to allow undocumented immigrants to stay based on certain circumstances. Organizers of the rally called for the Administration to expand its guidelines for administrative relief. The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) supports expansion of the guidelines and hopes that an immigrant’s gender identity and/or sexual orientation, as well as the likelihood of persecution or violence upon repatriation, is included.
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July 10, 2014
A recently published Mother Jones article highlights the current child refugee crisis in the US, telling the story of the tens of thousands of children from Central America fleeing violence and risking their lives to enter the country without an adult. The piece includes the story of one gay teen, known pseudonymously as Adrián, who fled gang violence in Guatemala, encountering anti-gay attacks along his journey and homophobic abuse in a US shelter.
The surge in public attention on child refugees comes in light of President Obama’s call to Congress for $3.7 billion dollars in additional funding to increase border security and resources for processing children and families through deportation proceedings. This humanitarian crisis has many dimensions: the unaddressed causes of the violence in Central America, the urgent need for decent shelter and legal help for these young people, the ugly xenophobic calls to deport them without due process.
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June 5, 2014
The nation’s leading lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender organizations this week sent a letter to the White House and Department of Homeland Security echoing the growing call for a halt to the mass detention and deportation of immigrants.
The letter reads in part:
“Like so many others, LGBT immigrants continue to be torn from their families and communities by these deportations. LGBT immigrants, many of whom came to the US to escape life- threatening persecution for who they are, are regularly and senselessly being detained for months, or even years, in unsafe conditions. Despite new regulations pursuant to the Prison Rape Elimination Act,Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) has failed to take adequate steps to protect LGBT people from abuse and inhumane isolation in detention centers, and transgender
women in particular continue to face harsh and inhumane conditions.”
Echoing recommendations made by other leading human rights organizations and members of Congress, the letter calls on the President to “take swift executive action to suspend mass immigration detention and deportations.” It argues that the billions now spent on aggressive immigration enforcement are not increasing public safety but are tearing families and communities apart and undermining trust in law enforcement. The letter requests a meeting between national LGBT organizations and Administration officials to discuss the issue.
Read the full letter below.
Last week, the Administration announced that a promised review of its immigration enforcement policies will be further delayed. Leaders in the House of Representatives continue to block any action on immigration reform.
The letter builds on the continuing work of grassroots LGBT immigration activists around the country, and was developed with input from grassroots activists including United We Dream’s Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project and Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement.
Last year, NCTE published a report outlining the impact of our harsh and dysfunctional immigration system on transgender people.