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House Democrats call for ICE to release all transgender detainees

Letter notes trans woman died while in agency’s custody

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A transgender woman eats inside a unit for transgender detainees in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M., on June 6, 2019. (Photo public domain)

More than 40 Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday called for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release all of the transgender people who are in their custody.

“The United States is bound by domestic and international law to protect — not punish — vulnerable populations escaping from persecution,” reads the letter to Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence and Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf that U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) spearheaded. “We demand that ICE abide by these laws by immediately bringing facilities detaining transgender individuals into compliance, and by arranging for release of transgender individuals at risk of sexual abuse and assault in ICE custody.”

“ICE should also ensure that such individuals have access to a safe environment and appropriate care upon release,” it adds.

ICE in previous interviews and statements to the Los Angeles Blade has defended its treatment of trans people in their custody.

A 2015 memorandum then-ICE Executive Associate Director of Enforcement and Removal Operations Thomas Homan signed requires personnel to allow trans detainees to identify themselves based on their gender identity on data forms. The directive, among other things, also contains guidelines for a “respectful, safe and secure environment” for trans detainees and requires detention facilities to provide them with access to hormone therapy and other trans-specific health care.

ICE in 2017 opened a unit specifically for trans women at the Cibola County Correctional Center, a privately-run facility in Milan, N.M.

This reporter is among the handful of journalists who ICE invited to tour the facility on June 12, 2019. More than two dozen trans women at the Cibola County Correctional Center roughly two weeks later in a letter they sent to Trans Queer Pueblo, a Phoenix-based group that advocates on behalf of undocumented LGBTQ youth, complained about inadequate medical care and staffers who “psychologically and verbally” mistreated them.

Trans women who were detained at the Otero County Processing Center, a privately-run facility in Chaparral, N.M., last year claimed guards subjected them to transphobic comments and forced them to “bathe and sleep in units with men who sexually harass them.” They also allege guards did not stop their fellow inmates from using transphobic slurs against them.

Alejandra Barrera, a trans activist from El Salvador, was in ICE custody at the Cibola County Correctional Center for 20 months until her release on Sept. 6, 2019. Barrera was in solitary confinement for months, including on the day ICE allowed reporters to visit the facility.

The Congressional letter notes the case of Roxsana Hernández, a trans Honduran woman with HIV who was briefly detained at the Cibola County Correctional Center before she died in ICE custody at a hospital in Albuquerque, N.M., on May 25, 2018. It also highlights Johana “Joa” Medina León, a trans Salvadoran woman who passed away at a hospital in El Paso, Texas, on June 1, 2019, three days after ICE released her from the Otero County Processing Center.

“In the United States and around the world, transgender individuals face persecution that ranges from physical and sexual violence to other forms of mistreatment based on their gender identity and expression,” reads the Congressional letter. “This already vulnerable population faces a heightened and unique set of injustices while in immigration detention.”

“Transgender migrants and asylum seekers are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment, solitary confinement, physical assault and medical neglect,” it adds. “These inhumane conditions and systematic abuses are evidenced in countless reports and accounts by formally detained people.”

The letter also says “the pervasive use of solitary confinement has caused particular harm to transgender migrants in detention.”

“Immigrants who have faced fear and violence in their pursuit of a new life in the United States should not be confronted with more fear and threats of violence when they arrive at our borders,” said Quigley in a press release that announced the letter. “Unfortunately, too often, that is exactly what many transgender immigrants face when placed in ICE detention facilities.” 

“Trans men and women experience a higher threat of sexual violence and are too frequently placed in solitary confinement,” he added. “If ICE cannot provide appropriate and humane accommodations for these migrants, they must release them from detention. No one else should have to lose their lives because of ICE’s cruel mismanagement.”

An ICE spokesperson on Tuesday said the agency “responds to Congressional correspondence through officials and by appropriate officials at the agency.”

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Oklahoma

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signs anti-Trans ‘Bathroom Bill’ into law

“These violations put Oklahoma at risk of losing millions of dollars & harms trans youth, all to solve a problem that does not exist”

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Screenshot/YouTube

OKLAHOMA CITY – On Wednesday Oklahoma Republican Governor Kevin Stitt signed the anti-Trans measure Senate Bill 615 into law. The measure, which took effect immediately, requires all kindergarten through 12th grade students in public and charter schools to use restrooms and changing facilities associated with the sex listed on their birth certificates.

Provisions in the language of the law requires schools to adopt disciplinary procedures to punish students who do not comply and allows parents and guardians to take legal action against any school that does not comply with the new law.

The capital city’s leading paper, The Oklahoman noted that any schools or districts that violate the law would see a 5 percent penalty reduction in state funding. ‘That could subtract thousands to millions of dollars, depending on the school system,” the paper noted.

“Governor Stitt believes girls should use girl restrooms and boys should use boy restrooms,” Stitt’s spokesperson Carly Atchison told media in a statement.

Opponents of the law point out that it is likely a violation of federal civil rights. “By singling out transgender students for discrimination and excluding them from restrooms that match their gender identity, SB 615 discriminates based on transgender status and sex in violation of the United States Constitution and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act,” Tamya Cox-Touré, Executive Director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, said in a statement on Wednesday.

“These violations put Oklahoma at risk of losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding and harms transgender youth, all to solve a problem that plainly does not exist,” Cox-Touré added.

“This law is unconstitutional, a violation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, and more than anything it is unnecessarily cruel for the sake of cruelty,” said Nicole McAfee, executive director of Freedom Oklahoma. “Over the last day we’ve heard people talk about school safety over and over again. But with a flick of his pen, Governor Stitt said that safety doesn’t extend to already vulnerable transgender and Two Spirit young people.”

“What states like Oklahoma, Alabama, Tennessee, and North Carolina have done time after time is find new ways to attack these kids for their political gains among radical voters,” Cathryn Oakley, state legislative director and senior counsel for the Human Rights Campain said in a press release. “Governor Stitt has repeatedly disregarded the real harms these bills will impose on Oklahoma’s youth.”

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The White House

LGBTQ+ leaders on reproductive justice & civil rights meet at White House

The importance of right to reproductive decision-making & privacy & the importance of reproductive health care for LGBTQI+ people highlighted

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White House Gender Policy Council Director Jennifer Klein (Official White House photo)

WASHINGTON – White House Gender Policy Council Director Jennifer Klein and White House Deputy Assistant to the President for Racial Justice and Equity Chiraag Bains convened a meeting with national LGBTQI+ leaders on protecting access to reproductive health care and protecting LGBTQI+ civil rights.

Advocates discussed the importance of protecting access to abortion for the LGBTQI+ community, and the need to protect critical and foundational LGBTQI+ civil rights, including marriage equality.

Participants also highlighted the importance of the right to reproductive decision-making and privacy, and the importance of reproductive health care for LGBTQI+ people as they start families, and cited fears about the challenges LGBTQI+ families are facing as states pass extreme laws restricting access to critical health care, including reproductive health care and gender-affirming care.
 
Senior Administration officials highlighted the President’s unwavering commitment to LGBTQI+ civil rights, reproductive rights, and safeguarding LGBTQI+ couples and families.

Participants included representatives from:

  • Equality Federation
  • Family Equality
  • Lambda Legal
  • Freedom for All Americans
  • Human Rights Campaign
  • National LGBTQ Task Force
  • National Center for Lesbian Rights
  • National Center for Transgender Equality
  • National Women’s Law Center
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West Hollywood

West Hollywood in brief- City government in action this week

WeHo Pride Parade & Pride Weekend, Draft Housing Element Report, West Hollywood Park Update, & Cedars-Sinai LGBTQ+ Cancer Symposium

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Photo by Uriel Malak Brewer/Facebook

WEST HOLLYWOOD – The City of West Hollywood has announced that it will recognize Janelle Monáe as Grand Marshall Icon and JoJo Siwa as Next Gen Icon during the upcoming #WeHoPride Weekend Pride Parade on Sunday, June 5, 2022.

The free WeHo Pride Parade will step off at noon on Santa Monica Boulevard starting at N. Crescent Heights Boulevard and will head west into the heart of the City’s Rainbow District to N. Robertson Boulevard.

“The City of West Hollywood is thrilled to be producing #WeHoPride for our community this year,” said City of West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister, “and our amazing icons – Janelle Monáe and JoJo Siwa – truly reflect the core values of our city. Pride celebrations have always been more than festivals or parades. Pride events give the diverse LGBTQ community a place to advocate for equality as well as a place to celebrate exactly who they are – exactly who they were meant to be. As our icons join parade contingents rolling down Santa Monica Boulevard on Sunday, June 5, West Hollywood will give #WeHoPride Parade participants and spectators from around the world a safe space and a loving, accepting home. At this moment in history, with women’s rights and LGBTQ rights under attack, our icons stand as proud, outspoken beacons of light and hope for a better tomorrow. West Hollywood has been the home of the largest Pride celebration in Southern California for nearly four decades. We’re looking forward to continuing that tradition this year for WeHo Pride. I can’t wait for our city to be filled with all the colors of Pride as we welcome the global community to our historic Rainbow District, filled with LGBTQ bars, clubs, restaurants, and retail shops. Come celebrate Pride with us in West Hollywood! Pride starts here!”

 This year, Janelle Monáe will be honored as the Grand Marshal Icon for the inaugural WeHo Pride Parade for continuing to inspire the world with her incredible artistry and advocacy. Monáe is a renowned American singer, songwriter, producer, rapper, author and actor. She has become an icon for queer people of color by illuminating the community’s most important conversations about identity and being true to who you are.

She has received numerous award nominations and has won multiple awards for her music, including eight Grammy nominations. Monáe made her theatrical film debut in two high-profile productions: Hidden Figures and Moonlight. In 2019, Monáe won a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Music Artist. In April 2022, Monáe published her book, The Memory Librarian: And Other Stories from Dirty Computer, which became a New York Times bestseller. She will soon star as icon Josephine Baker in De La Resistance, which is also produced under her Wondaland banner.

In addition, Monáe recently wrapped production for Netflix’s Knives Out 2, headlined the dramatic thriller Antebellum, and starred in the second season of Amazon’s critically acclaimed series Homecoming.

Along with her film and television work, Monáe officially launched her non-profit, Fem the Future, which provides young women and girls the resources and support they need to overcome the challenges associated with upbringings in under-resourced communities of color. Fem the Future aims to expand their world of opportunities by supporting and creating after-school and summer enrichment activities that increase exposure and access to a variety of careers. 

JoJo Siwa will also be joining the parade as WeHo Pride’s Next Gen Icon. Siwa is a global superstar, entrepreneur, singer, television and film star, New York Times bestselling author and social media sensation. In 2021, Siwa came out as gay to her millions of fans on social media and inspired a generation of young LGBTQ+ community members and their allies.

Siwa has more than 66 million followers on social media and more than 3.7 billion views on YouTube. In 2020, she was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. She has bridged a fan following across a broad demographic by promising and delivering on her messaging of “positivity, self love, inclusivity and acceptance.”

Siwa’s newest TV venture finds her on the judges panel for Season 17 of So You Think You Can Dance. ​​Facebook Watch will be following alongside JoJo at WeHo Pride as part of its docuseries-format JoJo Goes which will premiere on Facebook Watch this summer and will be available on Watch Together via Messenger and Instagram video calls.

On June 14, 2022, Siwa will be hosting P&G and iHeartMedia’s Can’t Cancel Pride, a fundraiser for the LGBTQ+ community celebrating visibility and inclusivity for all.

The City is reminding community members about events surrounding the upcoming #WeHoPride season and is providing regularly updated information about WeHo Pride 2022 programming as it becomes available:

  • WeHo Pride Weekend will take place on Friday, June 3, 2022, Saturday, June 4, 2022, and Sunday, June 5, 2022 in and around West Hollywood Park, located at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard and will include will include a free WeHo Pride Street Fair representing a diverse array of LGBTQ+ community groups as part of visibility, expression, and celebration.
  • The annual Dyke March and the Women’s Freedom Festival will take place beginning on Friday, June 3, 2022 at 5 p.m. The Dyke March will feature the presentation of the Melissa Etheridge and Community Activist awards, a poetry reading, sign-making and supplies, speakers, a DJ, and the Dykes on Bikes contingent. The Dyke March will step off and return to the corner of Robertson and Santa Monica Boulevards. The Women’s Freedom Festival will take place immediately following the Dyke March at the #WeHoPride Street Fair stage on Robertson Boulevard and will feature emerging LGBTQ and BIPOC women and non-binary musicians, comedians, poets, and activists.
  • WeHo Pride Weekend will feature OUTLOUD: Raising Voices, the award-winning three-day LGBTQ concert series produced by JJLA at West Hollywood Park. Headliners, artist lineup, and ticket information are available by visiting https://weareoutloud.com
  • The City of West Hollywood’s Pride Parade will step-off at noon at N. Crescent Heights Boulevard on Sunday, June 5, 2022 and will make its way west along Santa Monica Boulevard to the City’s Rainbow District.
  • WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival began on Sunday, May 22, 2022 (Harvey Milk Day) and continues for 40 days, closing out the Festival on Thursday, June 30, 2022. Events will be live at various locations throughout the City of West Hollywood and will also feature selected online programming. The theme for 2022 is With Liberty, Diversity, Inclusion, and Progress For All. The WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival is organized by the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Division with input from the City’s Lesbian & Gay Advisory Board, Transgender Advisory Board, Arts and Cultural Affairs Commission, and community partners. A full calendar of events is available online.

Updated details about WeHo Pride Weekend are posted as they become available at www.weho.org/pride.

For nearly four decades, the City of West Hollywood has been home to the largest Pride celebration in Southern California, as hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ people and allies from around the world make West Hollywood their destination for the Pride season. Home to the “Rainbow District” along Santa Monica Boulevard, which features a concentration of historic LGBTQ clubs, restaurants, and retail shops, the City consistently tops lists of “most LGBTQ friendly cities” in the nation.

Since incorporation in 1984, the City of West Hollywood has become one of the most influential cities in the nation for its outspoken advocacy on LGBTQ issues. No other city of its size has had a greater impact on the national public policy discourse on fairness and inclusiveness for LGBTQ people.

More than 40 percent of residents in West Hollywood identify as LGBTQ and three of the five members of the West Hollywood City Council are openly gay. The City has advocated for nearly four decades for measures that support LGBTQ individuals and the City is in the vanguard on efforts to gain and protect equality for all people on a state, national, and international level.

The City of West Hollywood is one of the first municipalities to form a Lesbian & Gay Advisory Board and a Transgender Advisory Board, which each address matters of advocacy. As part of its support of the transgender community, the City has a Transgender Resource Guide available on the City’s website, which provides information about a variety of resources including legal, health, and social services, available in the Greater Los Angeles area to enhance and improve the well-being of transgender people.

For more information about WeHo Pride, please contact the City of West Hollywood’s Events Services Division at [email protected]. For more information about the WeHo Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival, please contact the City of West Hollywood’s Arts Coordinator Mike Che at (323) 848-6377 or [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

City of West Hollywood Draft Housing Element Report is now available for public review and community input

After extensive community engagement and public hearings to gather information about community needs, values, and priorities, the City of West Hollywood’s draft Housing Element Report for 2021 to 2029 is available for public review until June 6, 2022, as required by state law.

The Housing Element serves as a policy guide that provides an indication of housing needs in the community – in particular, the availability, affordability, and adequacy of housing.

The City of West Hollywood encourages community members to take part in the process of reviewing the draft Housing Element Report and providing comments and input. The forthcoming Housing Element is for the period of 2021 to 2029 and it will assist the City in completing its housing policy framework for the future to address vital housing needs in the community. 

The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) will review the draft after the public review period is complete and will provide comments to ensure that the Housing Element meets all State requirements. Should HCD have additional comments, staff will amend the Plan as necessary.

Additional changes will be made to future drafts based on City Council requests for policies that create additional affordable housing in the City, and changes to the site inventory, which provides a conceptual plan for where housing could be built over the next eight (8) years.

The community will be able to weigh in as future drafts are published for public review. Once HCD approves the plan, the West Hollywood City Council will then adopt the plan as a part of the City’s General Plan. Additionally, the City will continue to study the environmental impacts of the Plan and will certify an Environmental Impact Report upon adoption of the Plan. 

The Housing Element is required by the State of California to be included in the City of West Hollywood’s General Plan and it must be updated every eight years to demonstrate that the housing needs of all community members can be met regardless of income. The purpose of the Housing Element is to achieve an adequate supply of safe and affordable housing. It assesses housing needs for a variety of income groups and lays out a program to meet those needs as part of a strategy for addressing housing needs across the economic and social spectrum.

The draft Housing Element Report for 2021 to 2029 is available for viewing at www.weho.org/housingelement

For more information or to submit written feedback, please contact Rachel Dimond, City of West Hollywood Senior Planner, at [email protected] or by postal mail to West Hollywood City Hall, 8300 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90069.

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

City of West Hollywood May 2022 West Hollywood Park Update

The City of West Hollywood is working to open the Aquatic and Recreation Center (ARC) at West Hollywood Park in the coming weeks. Public access to the ARC will be accomplished in a phased approach to protect the safety and welfare of the public and users of the facility.

Despite the finished appearance of the building, final items are being completed and City staff has just begun to occupy the ARC at West Hollywood Park under a temporary occupancy permit. Currently, staff are training and certifying fire-life-safety systems for the pools and equipment in the building, and staff are beginning to move into office space and test and familiarize themselves with operations of the site.

The City anticipates receiving approval to allow limited public access soon and will begin a phased roll-out approach in June 2022. All maintenance, operations, and recreation staff, including lifeguards, must be fully trained in site operations and pools prior to public access.

The children’s playground remains closed at West Hollywood Park. Deficiencies in installation were identified after a state-mandated Playground Safety Audit and site inspections were conducted. The City has commenced repair work under guidance of the playground manufacturer and its installation contractor. The City anticipates this work to take a few weeks for completion. The playground repair work is being expedited to the best of the City’s ability. The City is aware this is especially frustrating and is working to open the playground for community use as soon as possible. In the interim, the City operates two (2) playgrounds at other locations: Kings Road Park (1000 N. Kings Road) and Plummer Park (7377 Santa Monica Boulevard). The playground at Plummer Park is the largest playground operated by the City of West Hollywood.

The City recently reopened a large portion of the park-site at West Hollywood Park. This area was previously closed for completion of the West Hollywood Park Phase II Master Plan Implementation Project, which includes the Aquatic and Recreation Center (ARC) building and park construction work. 

West Hollywood Park open areas currently include:

  • Adult Fitness Equipment: Open to the public. 
  • El Tovar Place: Open to the public. El Tovar Place provides east to west access through West Hollywood Park between N. San Vicente Boulevard and N. Robertson Boulevard including access to the parking structures.
  • Expanded Turf Areas: Open to the public. There is access from N. San Vicente Boulevard, N. Robertson Boulevard, El Tovar Place, and from the third level of the West Hollywood Park Five-Story Parking Structure located at 625 N. San Vicente Boulevard.
  • New Public Art: Open to the public. Parallel Perpendicular by artist Phillip K. Smith III is located in the Robertson Gardens area. 
  • Robertson Gardens: Open to the public. There are picnic tables and an expanded turf area for passive recreation activities.
  • West Hollywood Library Parking Structure: Open to the public. Open hours align with the West Hollywood Library’s operating hours.
  • West Hollywood Park restrooms adjacent to the City’s Small Dog Park: Open to the public.

For park updates, subscribe to the City’s West Hollywood Park Master Plan Phase II e-notifications list to receive updates.

For more information, please contact Erin Hamant, City of West Hollywood Senior Administrative Analyst, at [email protected] or (323) 848-6859.

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

City of West Hollywood Co-Presents Two-Day Cedars-Sinai LGBTQ+ Cancer Symposium 

The City of West Hollywood co-presents an upcoming two-day Cedars-Sinai LGBTQ+ Cancer Symposium. This symposium is the first of its kind to center the science and voices of LGBTQ+ people on cancer care, community engagement, and policies that influence health disparities. Cedars-Sinai Cancer recognizes that by examining the intersection of sexual orientation, gender, and cancer, it can better prevent, detect, and cure cancer.

The LGBTQ+ Cancer Symposium will take place on Thursday, June 2, 2022, and Friday, June 3, 2022, at Sofitel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, located at 8555 Beverly Boulevard in Los Angeles. Oncologists, oncologic surgeons, epidemiologists, health equity researchers, health outcomes researchers, policy makers, community organizers, and thought leaders in this space are encouraged to register and attend.

The Symposium will feature, as Keynote Speaker, Karen L. Parker, Ph.D., MSW, Director of the Sexual and Gender Minority Research Office at the National Institutes of Health. Symposium Co-Chairs are B.J. Rimel, M.D., Associate Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai, and Zul Surani Associate Director of Community Outreach and Engagement at Cedars-Sinai Cancer.

For registration information, a full schedule, and details about conference faculty and more, please visit the Cedars-Sinai website.For more information about this event, please contact Andi Lovano, the City of West Hollywood’s Community & Legislative Affairs Manager, at (323) 848-6333 or at [email protected].

For people who are Deaf or hard of hearing, please call TTY (323) 848-6496.

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