Dozens of transgender women, including asylum seekers who have come to the United States seeking protection from abuse in their home countries, are locked up in jails or prison-like immigration detention centers across the country at any point in time, Human Rights Watch said in a new report created in collaboration with Transgender Law Center and Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement. Many have been subjected to sexual assault and ill-treatment in detention, while others are held in indefinite solitary confinement.
The 68-page report, “‘Do You See How Much I’m Suffering Here?’: Abuse against Transgender Women in US Immigration Detention,” documents 28 cases of transgender women who were held in US immigration detention between 2011 and 2015. More than half of the transgender women Human Rights Watch interviewed were held in men’s facilities at some point. Half also spent time in solitary confinement, in many cases allegedly for their protection. But solitary confinement is a form of abuse in and of itself, and many who had spent time there experienced trauma and profound psychological distress.
“When trans women are placed by the state into a male facility, you’re setting them up for sexual violence,” said Isa Noyola, director of programs at Transgender Law Center, and a leading national advocate for immigrant transgender women. “Many of our community members have had to lose a lot, face a lot of violence to get here, and to then be further placed in situations where they experience, on a daily basis, more violence, is not okay.”
In conjunction with the report release, Transgender Law Center Detention Project Director Flor Bermudez has called on President Obama to end the detention of transgender immigrants and eliminate so-called “transgender pods” in detention facilities. You can view her statement to the President and sign the petition here.
Download the Human Rights Watch report here.