The Rights of (Transgender) Persons When Held in Immigration Detention Facilities Often Overlooked

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, transgender women who are held in detention facilities suffer from sexual assault at approximately nine to 10 times the rate of other detained persons. In fact, transgender persons comprise one out of every five cases of sexual abuse while in Immigration Customs & Enforcement (ICE) Custody. Transgender women detainees are currently housed amongst male detainees, rather than amongst females or privately.

For transgender women who are being held by ICE then, detention can be extremely dangerous, and even deadly. Despite these very real risks, women transgender detainees recently lost a battle in California for separate detention housing. However, the loss may have been within their best interest.

Separate Housing Plans Abandoned

Immigrant and human rights activists have long been demanding that the United States do something to protect transgender women who are sexually abused in detention centers across the states. However, it appears that the plan to relocate dozens of detainees—all of whom are transgender—to a facility in Adelanto, California have all but been abandoned. According to ICE spokesperson Virginia Kice, and reported on by the International Business Times, “U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement is no longer pursuing Adelanto as a location to house transgender women on a long-term basis.” A secondary plan has not been offered by ICE.

Rights of Immigrants Are Violated

The plan to abandon the transfer to the Adelanto facility may not be a bad one; just months ago, more than 300 men at the Adelanto facility went on hunger strike in protest of less-than-sufficient medical care and slow deportation proceedings. There are also claims that detainees have been abused by ICE agents, verbally assaulted, robbed, raped, kept in solitary confinement, and otherwise denied basic human rights. These claims are not exclusively for the Adelanto facility, but rather multiple detention centers across the country. The U.S. Commission on Human Rights also recently spoke out against ICE agents for their failure to uphold standards designed to promote humane treatment.

Protection for Persons Held in Detention Centers

Regardless of the fact that an immigrant is undocumented and therefore in violation of the law, an immigrant still has human and legal rights. Tragically, the government and ICE are treating immigrants, including asylum seekers, as dangerous criminals. Adequate protection for all persons held in detention centers is currently not occurring. While transgender persons are one of the most at-risk groups for sexual assault, both women and men have been assaulted and denied basic rights based purely on their detainee status.

If you are currently being held in a detention center, or if your loved one is currently being held in a detention center, and your/their rights are being violated, you have the right to legal recourse. To learn more about the protections that are you entitled to and how an attorney can help, call the immigration attorneys at the Law Offices of Joshua L. Goldstein, P.C. You can reach us now at (617) 722-0005.