Home > Press Releases > Immigration and Customs Enforcement Announces Plans to Detain Transgender Immigrants in New For-Profit Prison

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 23, 2016

Contact:
Jackie Yodashkin, Communications Director
jyodashkin@immigrationequality.org / 917-620-4502

Immigration and Customs Enforcement Announces Plans to Detain Transgender Immigrants in New For-Profit Prison

“ICE clearly cannot detain transgender immigrants safely, and so it should not detain them at all. ”

New York, NY — In an article posted on Fusion.net, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed plans to house transgender immigrants in a new immigration detention facility, the Prairieland Detention Center, opening in November in Alvarado, Texas. The move is the latest in a series of failed attempts by ICE to detain transgender immigrants safely.

“First, ICE planned to detain transgender women in a dangerous facility in the Mojave Desert,” said Aaron C. Morris, Executive Director of Immigration Equality. “When that did not work, it began involuntarily transferring women from all over the country to the Santa Ana City Jail, where they were abused and degraded. And now, it plans to move them again, far from community and counsel in rural Texas.

“Transgender immigrants are not safe in detention facilities in California or Texas or anywhere else. We hear horror stories of sexual abuse and degradation no matter where they are held. ICE clearly cannot detain transgender immigrants safely, and so it should not detain them at all,” Morris added.

Currently, the majority of transgender immigrants are housed at the Santa Ana City Jail. Recently, 31 women detained at the Santa Ana facility filed a civil complaint against the jail, calling on the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the Department of Homeland Security to investigate the unconstitutional and unwarranted strip searches they experience at the hands of male officers.

BACKGROUND

On March 28, 2016, U.S. Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Tucson, Ariz.), U.S. Rep. Mike Honda (D-Silicon Valley, Calif.), U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), 23 Representatives and 10 Senators joined together in sending a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, calling on Johnson to protect transgender immigrant detainees from abuse, unreasonable strip searches, and sexual assault while in ICE custody. This was a follow up to a June 23, 2015 Congressional Letter delivered to Johnson, which was endorsed by 35 members of Congress who called for the end to LGBTQ detention and immediate release on parole to community.

On December 1, 2015, ICE confirmed that it would discontinue its plan to house transgender women at the Adelanto Detention Facility in Southern California, which is in the Mojave Desert of Southern California, a four-hour round trip from Los Angeles and where the nearest legal community is based. Placing transgender immigrants in the facility would have effectively prevented any independent oversight by advocates and would have severely limit transgender immigrants’ access to attorneys.

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Immigration Equality is the nation’s leading LGBTQ immigrant rights organization. We represent and advocate for people from around the world fleeing violence, abuse, and persecution because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or HIV status. Our legal team has won asylum for hundreds of LGBTQ and HIV-positive immigrants while maintaining a 99% success rate.