ICE and DHS Have Failed at Providing Minimum Safety and Dignity for LGBTQ Immigrants in Detention, Immigrant Detention Must End



Jennicet Gutierrez at White House Pride reception.

June 29, 2015 — Less than one week after Jennicet Gutierrez courageously interrupted the White House Pride reception to demand that President Obama end the detention and abuse of transgender immigrant women, the administration made public a new memo on the topic.

In response to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) guidance, “Further Guidance Regarding the Care of Transgender Detainees,”  the #Not1More campaign and member groups – Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Transgender Law Center, GetEQUAL, and Southerners On New Ground – issued the following statement:

“A guidance document cannot be expected to change the fact that DHS and ICE have consistently failed at maintaining a minimum of safety and dignity for transgender immigrants. Transgender immigrants and other vulnerable populations, including mothers with their children and gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) detainees, should be released from detention.

While we have an imperative to advance short and long term protections for LGBTQ people and all people in immigration detention, our experience with guidance documents such as these is that their implementation is inconsistent and accompanied by little oversight or accountability.  In addition, this guidance still allows for practices that have been denounced as inhumane — including administrative segregation, ‘protective custody,’ and isolated pods — as adequate forms of housing for transgender individuals. Every one of these practices has failed to protect transgender immigrants, particularly women,  from rape, sexual and physical abuse and dangerous living conditions in detention.

Lastly, it is extremely concerning that this guidance does not mandate that contracted detention facilities sign on to pre-existing protections such as to the Contract Modification for Transgender Care.  This will result in a continuation of the practice of using isolation or inadequate GBT specific pods to detain transgender women.

Our communities, especially those most impacted, continue to mobilize and organize around a primary demand:  end the detention and deportation system. In ICE’s brutal and unjust detention system, every one of our loved ones is vulnerable. Trans women of color like Jennicet Gutierrez, are on the frontlines fighting these injustices. We will continue to fight until the cruel practice of detention is ended and detainees are afforded long-term solutions regarding their residency, employment, and citizenship status.

Just last week 35 Congresspeople sent a letter to Jeh Johnson, Secretary of Homeland Security, emphasizing our demand and asking for the release of LGBTQ immigrants. Elected officials see the urgency to hold ICE accountable for the continued torture, rape, and abuse that gender non-conforming people, transgender women and others face in detention centers, and the detention to deportation pipeline.

We  will continue to organize and demand that President Obama’s administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement release LGBTQ immigrants from detention and end all immigrant detention as a crucial step in combating  the criminalization faced by immigrants, Black people, other people of color, women and LGBTQ folks.”

From Transgender Law Center, Executive Director Kris Hayashi said: “This guidance does not change the fundamental issue that Jennicet Gutierrez so bravely brought to President Obama last week: detention and deportation of transgender people must end.”

Isa Noyola, program manager at TLC, added: “Today’s announcement from ICE is just the beginning of the work in fighting for the release and liberation of our transgender community members inside detention. On the ground immigrant rights organizers and the transgender community are building together and seeing our struggles with many unifying points. We have many more battles to win. Although our transgender community is faced with many forms of transphobic violence daily, we remain unwavered in our commitment towards true freedom.”