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.
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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November 27, 2013
Last week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a 93 page summary of their investigation into immigration detention facilities and whether they are properly reporting the sexual abuse of immigrant detainees. The report unveils the ongoing failures of immigration detention facilities in reporting and addressing instances of sexual abuse that occur far too frequently in immigration detention sites. For example, the GAO report details the experience of a transgender woman who was sexually assaulted by a male guard while in solitary confinement in a male facility. In this case, the guard admitted to the abuse and was prosecuted by federal authorities. However, the report explained that many allegations of sexual abuse by detainees around the country go unreported and unaddressed by detention staff. Shockingly, at the facilities that GAO visited during their investigation, 40% of the allegations made by detainees had not been reported to ICE headquarters as required.
Over the years, NCTE has worked to prevent the sexual assault of all people in confinement. We have especially highlighted the abuse of transgender immigrants, who are among the most vulnerable to abuse. In addition to encouraging the Department of Homeland Security to issue strong regulations that comply with the Prison Rape Elimination Act, NCTE released a report detailing trans immigrants’ struggles, and encouraged ICE to improve its monitoring of the use of solitary confinement. Although DHS has made some important steps forward, much still needs to be done to ensure that all immigrants, and especially vulnerable transgender immigrants, are free from abuse and mistreatment in detention.
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