In a Sept. 24 letter to Department of Homeland Security, the Human Rights Campaign calls on Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to address the increasing rates of sexual assault against LGBTQ immigrants while in ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) custody.
“The dangerous levels of reported sexual abuse that LGBTQ people face while in immigration detention indicate that ICE is failing to adequately prioritize their safety and well-being,” HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy wrote. “I urge you to address these deficiencies immediately and ensure that all detainees are treated with the respect and dignity all people deserve, no matter who they are or whom they love.”
LGBTQ people make up less than 1% of people in immigration detention but account for a shocking 12% of reported victims of sexual abuse and assault in ICE detention, according to a May 30 congressional letter. This means that LGBTQ people are 97 times more likely to report being sexually abused in detention than non-LGBTQ people in the same conditions. Transgender detainees and detainees living with HIV/AIDS are especially impacted by poor oversight and regulation of ICE, with current policies placing transgender women in living conditions that put them at high risk of violence and facing denial of or delayed access to necessary medical care and treatment.
HRC asked ICE to investigate the death Roxanna Hernandez, a transgender woman with AIDS who died in custody last May. Hernandez petitioned for asylum as part of a caravan of migrants fleeing violence in Central America. A 2014 National Inmate Survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics revealed that 40% of surveyed transgender people held in state and federal detention reported that they experienced sexual abuse, compared to 14% of gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals, and 3.1% of non-LGBT people in similar conditions, according to the Human Rights Watch.
“We are extremely concerned about reports of increased sexual abuse cases LGBT people face while in ICE detention,” Jorge-Mario Cabrera, communications director for CHIRLA Action Fund, told the Los Angeles Blade. “This rogue agency is no stranger to giving a damn about children’s rights, women’s rights, or the rights of any other group in their care. But they should know Americans do care and ICE will be held accountable for their actions. Any person detained by ICE is someone who deserves respect, have their basic needs like health care and food met, and should be protected from physical, emotional, or any other violation of their body and dignity. ICE is a government agency and as such we demand the Congress request a review and stop the abuse.”
To this end, CHIRLA endorsed Alex Villanueva for LA County Sheriff as a “Sheriff who will be accountable and truthful with the immigrant community in terms of dealing with ICE.”