Rights groups urge ICE to release LGBTQ migrant detainees
Human rights groups are calling on the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release LGBTQ migrant detainees in their custody as they face “rampant sexual harassment, discrimination, and abuse.”
In their letter, they also included in their call all detainees with HIV, citing the US government’s repeatedly inability to provide adequate medical and mental healthcare to them.
They further said ICE should cancel contracts with privately-run detention facilities that provide poor care to LGBTQ migrant detainees.
Groups fighting for LGBTQ migrant detainees
Among the groups that filed the complaint were the Familia Trans Queer Liberation Project, Al Otro Lado, Las Americas Immigrant Advocates, and the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
Also part of the group were the Freedom for Immigrants, Santa Fe Dreamers Project, Southern Poverty Law Center, Immigration Equality, and the Center for Victims of Torture.
Lastly, there were also the National Immigrant Justice Center and the National Center for Transgender Equality.
“We know that lack of medical and mental-health care, including lack of HIV care, is the norm,” Roger Coggan, director of legal services at the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
Coggan told reporters: “These cruel incarcerations need to stop immediately.”
Ill-treatment of LGBTQ migrant detainees
The complaint, which centered on ICE for their detainment of migrants, alleged inadequate healthcare at the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) facilities.
These facilities hold the migrants after they are initially detained upon crossing the border. These detainees are under the threat of deportation.
Presently, ICE has more than 50,000 detainees under their custody. However, it’s not known how many are LGBTQ people or people with HIV.
The groups said they’ve received repeated complaints about their treatment of LGBTQ migrant detainees.
Last March, a transgender woman, Johana Medina Leon, who had been detained at the Otero County Detention Facility in New Mexico, had fallen ill and later died at a nearby hospital.
The groups said that even after Medina’s death: “ICE continues to deny transgender women and gay and bisexual men at Otero basic health care and provides misinformation on how to access hormone therapy.”
Treatment of detainees with HIV troubling
The complaint further noted that ICE and CBP have failed to provide adequate care for detainees with HIV.
This includes withholding treatment they need to suppress the virus and reduce risk of transmission.
“Far too many people in detention are outright denied access to HIV-related care or experience significant delays,” the groups said.
“This delay of treatment is cruel, counterintuitive to ending HIV transmission, and causes irreparable harm,” they added.
Other treatment of LGBTQ detainees in facilities
According to the groups, some migrants were placed in solitary confinement or threatened with it after complaining about conditions in the facilities.
Others who complained were allegedly reassigned to barracks with heterosexual men as a form of retaliation. One gay man said he was asked to perform sexual favors in exchange for food.
The groups said guards allegedly interrupted showers and offered to help transgender women bathe.
Likewise, medical staff allegedly refused to provide hormones to three women for gender dysphoria.
A report by advocacy group Center for American Progress noted that though there are fewer LGBTQ migrant detainees, they are 97 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other detainees.