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Rep. Nadler Sends Letter to ICE Demanding End of Transgender Migrant Detention

Washington, January 14, 2020
Washington, D.C. —Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler joined a group of forty Members of Congress in calling for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release all transgender individuals currently in detention. LGBTQ immigrants are 97 times more likely to be sexually victimized in detention than straight and cis-gender immigrants and at least two transgender women, Roxsana Hernandez Rodriguez and Johana Medina León, died in ICE custody.

“For too long, immigration detention has been overly harsh, callous, and punitive toward migrants generally, and transgender individuals in particular,” said Chairman Nadler. “Unfortunately, transgender migrants are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment, physical and mental abuse, and medical neglect while in ICE detention. Rather than protect this vulnerable population, ICE detains them and places them at risk of abuse, medical neglect, and sexual harassment in ICE custody.  Congress recognized that these inhumane conditions were unacceptable when it passed the FY 2020 Appropriations package, and ICE must take immediate action to protect vulnerable populations in its custody and find safe and suitable alternatives to detention.”

The recently enacted FY2020 Appropriations package includes instructions for ICE to only detain transgender individuals in facilities specifically contracted for their care. Currently, no ICE facilities meet these standards. Chairman Nadler and the letter’s other signers, including Vice Chair of the LGBT Equality Caucus and founding Member of the Transgender Equality Task Force Mike Quigley (IL-05), House Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (NM-03), and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), are demanding that ICE immediately bring facilities detaining transgender individuals into compliance or ensure the release of their transgender detainees. The members have requested a response, including a detailed plan for addressing this issue, no later than January 27, 2020.

“Immigrants who have faced fear and violence in their pursuit of a new life in the United States should not be confronted with more fear and threats of violence when they arrive at our borders. Unfortunately, too often, that is exactly what many transgender immigrants face when placed in ICE detention facilities,” said Rep. Quigley. “Trans men and women experience a higher threat of sexual violence and are too frequently placed in solitary confinement. If ICE cannot provide appropriate and humane accommodations for these migrants, they must release them from detention. No one else should have to lose their lives because of ICE’s cruel mismanagement.”

“Immigration and Customs Enforcement has consistently failed to provide humanitarian or even basic care for transgender individuals in their care. These individuals are subjected to violence and sexual assault at disproportionately high rates and a lack of competent care has even led to the death of two trans women, including one woman, Roxsana Hernandez Rodriguez, in New Mexico. If ICE and the Trump administration cannot care for the individuals in their facilities with dignity, respect, and humanitarian care, they must release these individuals to avoid subjecting them to continued harm,” said Rep. Luján.

“The deaths of Roxsana Hernandez Rodriguez and Johana Medina León stand as shocking examples of the consequences for the mistreatment and negligence that LGBTQ immigrants endure in ICE custody. These facilities are not prepared to ensure that vulnerable migrants, especially transgender individuals, are safe from violence and abuse while in their custody, nor are they prepared to provide necessary medical care. In fact, many facilities resort to solitary confinement rather than improve conditions in custody,” said Rep. Castro. “As Chair of the Hispanic Caucus, I’m working to hold ICE accountable and have already requested that the Homeland Security Inspector General launch an investigation into ICE for Roxsana’s death. Transgender immigrants cannot be safely detained by ICE under current standards - not one more life should be lost due to this agency’s negligence.”

The National Immigrant Justice Center, Freedom for Immigrants, Immigration Equality, Detention Watch Network, and Los Angeles LGBT Center have all endorsed the letter.

“My client Kelly has been suffering in a remote immigration jail for more than two years, including months in solitary confinement solely because of her gender identity. Kelly is one of dozens of transgender immigrants who needlessly endure the indignities and brutalities of immigration detention day in and day out. We are grateful to Congressman Quigley and the other Members of Congress speaking out today against ICE’s continued abusive and unnecessary jailing of trans immigrants,” said Tania Linares Garcia, Senior Attorney at the National Immigrant Justice Center.

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