Five transgender immigrant women and TLC and Familia staff on their way to meet with ICE. Photo credit: Andy Fernandez

Today, five transgender women who have survived immigration detention met with Alejandro Mayorkas, Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, to share their stories of abuse in custody and to demand an end to the detention of transgender immigrants. The first-of-its-kind meeting comes weeks after ICE announced plans to open a new detention center to hold transgender immigrants in Alvarado, Texas, and months after ICE issued much-criticized guidance for detaining transgender people.

“I am here to share my story and tell Mayorkas all the sexual abuse and discrimination I faced while in detention,” said Nicoll Hernandez-Polanco, a Guatemalan transgender woman who was released from detention last year. “ICE allowed for me to be sexually assaulted. What my transgender community needs and wants is to be immediately released from all detention centers in order to truly be safe.”

Today’s meeting marks the first time Department of Homeland Security and ICE officials have met directly with transgender people impacted by their policies, although advocates from the #Not1More campaign, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, and Transgender Law Center first requested this meeting over a year ago.

“The Trans Care Memo issued by ICE last year is not what the community wants or needs,” said Isa Noyola, Director of Programs at Transgender Law Center. “Transgender women continue to be housed with men, verbally abused, subjected to excessive use of isolation and lockdowns, unnecessary strip searches, and denial of medical care, including transition related treatment. ICE should rescind their failed and inadequate memo and exercise prosecutorial discretion to release all transgender women from detention, close down the Santa Ana city jail detention center and cancel plans to open another transgender pod Alvarado in Texas.”

Jennicet Gutierrez, a founding member of Familia QTLM, added: “We know that opening another detention center for transgender immigrants in Texas is not the answer our community needs. In order to end all the abuses transgender women are facing in detention centers ICE needs to end the detention and deportation of transgender immigrants.”


Transgender Law Center is the largest national organization dedicated to advancing the rights of transgender and gender nonconforming people through litigation, policy advocacy, and public education. TLC works to change law, policy, and attitudes so that all people can live safely, authentically, and free from discrimination regardless of their gender identity or is a campaign made of individuals, organizations, artists, and allies to expose, confront, and overcome unjust immigration laws.