Recent reports of transgender immigrants being sexually assaulted and harassed in detention ce nters has drawn the attention of a gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender advocacy group in Arizona called Mariposas Sin Fronteras. The group claims that many transgender immigrants wind up in facilities that deny their gender identification and instead put males transitioning to females in all male facilities, and women transitioning to men in female facilities. This leads to a hostile environment where many are physically, verbally, and sexually assaulted by other detainees.
In a recent case, the Mariposas Sin Fronteras group called for the release of a 24 year old transgender female who is being held in a male facility and claims to have been sexually assaulted, verbally abused, and continuously harassed by other inmates and guards. The group took their case to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, but has been unsuccessful in their efforts to get the victim released on humanitarian parole. Until such time, she will have to sleep, shower, dress, and coexist as a woman in an all-male facility.
Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials say they take all allegations of abuse or sexual assault very seriously and investigate all matters reported. Unfortunately, the only sure way to keep a transgender individual safe is to remove them from the population and place them in solitary confinement. One such detainee described her six months in isolation as “really bad” and added that it felt more like extreme punishment than protective custody.
According to a report by Fusion, which is a collaboration of Univision and ABC, approximately one of every 500 undocumented detainees is transgender. The report also states that one of every five reported sexual assaults in detention facilities include transgender individuals. ICE officials state that their policy requires gender identification to be considered when placing individuals in male or female facilities, however advocacy groups claim that there has never been a male to female transitioning person placed in a women’s facility.
Over the past six years, ICE claims to have instituted several modifications to enhance the safety and well-being of the immigrants being detained. Providing medical and mental health services, protecting the LGBT population, access to counseling services, visitation, and recreational activities are just some of the programs aiming to improve conditions for immigrant detainees.
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