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Transgender women transferred from ICE detention center in NM

Agency faces growing calls to release all trans detainees

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The Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

An immigrant advocacy group on Monday said the transgender women who were in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at a privately-run detention center in New Mexico have been moved to other facilities around the country.

The Santa Fe Dreamers Project in a press release said ICE at 3 a.m. on Jan. 21 “without warning” transferred half of the total number of trans women who were detained at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M., to the Aurora Contract Detention Facility near Denver. The Santa Fe Dreamers Project noted ICE on Jan. 25 later transferred the “second half of the group” to the Tacoma Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash., via a facility in Florence, Ariz.

The GEO Group, a Florida-based company, operates the Aurora and Tacoma Northwest Detention Centers.

Charlie Flewelling, an attorney with the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, on Tuesday told the Los Angeles Blade their organization was in “regular contact with” 29 detainees at the Cibola County Correctional Center. Flewelling said three of them were in solitary confinement or housed with men at the facility, and the remaining 26 detainees were housed in a unit that ICE created specifically for trans women in their custody.

“Santa Fe Dreamers Project is currently working with legal service providers in both locations to ensure a continuity of legal services, including requests for immediate release and legal representation in the event those requests are denied,” said the Santa Fe Dreamers Project in their press release.

Flewelling told the Blade that ICE sent one of the detainees to the Otero County Processing Center, a detention facility in Chaparral, N.M., operated by Management and Training Corporation, a Utah-based company.

“To my knowledge we were in regular contact with everyone housed in the trans unit, as well as every trans woman held in solitary as well as with every trans woman held with the men,” they said.

CoreCivic, a private company once known as the Corrections Corporation of America, operates the Cibola County Correctional Center that is roughly 80 miles west of Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest city. ICE in 2017 opened the unit for trans women.

The Santa Fe Dreamers Project in its press release suggested ICE “appears to be in the process of closing the unit and transferring all of the women to other detention centers in the U.S.”

An ICE official with whom the Blade spoke on Tuesday confirmed 27 detainees “previously housed at the Cibola County Correctional Center” were transferred “to other facilities throughout the country.” The official said not all of the detainees who were transferred from the Cibola County Correctional Center are trans women.

“ICE routinely transfers aliens for a number of reasons including available bed space, access to specific health care needs, or due to temporary adverse facility conditions,” the official told the Blade.

The official noted ICE “is currently working with its contractor to assess and improve the quality of long-term health care management at the Cibola County Correctional Center.”

“In the interim, ICE has found available bed space in other facilities with existing resources to better manage the needs of certain detainees requiring continuous medical case management,” said the official. 

“ICE will continue to work with the facility operators to ensure those in our custody at the Cibola County Correctional Center reside in a safe, secure, humane environment with access to necessary health care,” added the official.

The official did not say whether ICE is plans to close the unit. Flewelling on Wednesday insisted to the Blade it is closed.

“The trans pod is closed, and regardless of if that is permanent or temporary we stand by the statements made in our press release,” they said.

Transgender immigrants ‘not safe in immigration detention’

The Santa Fe Dreamers Project is among the advocacy groups that have sharply criticized the treatment of trans women at the Cibola County Correctional Center and other detention centers around the country.

Roxsana Hernández, a trans Honduran woman with HIV who had briefly been detained at the Cibola County Correctional Center, died at an Albuquerque hospital on May 25, 2018.

More than two dozen trans women at the Cibola County Correctional Center on June 26, 2019, sent a letter to Trans Queer Pueblo, a Phoenix-based group that advocates on behalf of undocumented LGBTQ immigrants, in which they complained about inadequate medical care and mistreatment from staffers. The detainees wrote the letter two weeks after ICE invited this reporter and a handful of other journalists to tour the facility.

The Santa Fe Dreamers Project on Jan. 16 demanded the release of a trans Salvadoran woman in ICE custody at the Cibola County Correctional Center because she is “in a life-or-death medical crisis.”

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.

More than 40 Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month in a letter to Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence and Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf called for ICE to release all trans people in their custody. The Santa Fe Dreamers Project and Trans Queer Pueblo are among the more than 80 advocacy groups that made the same demand in their own letter to Albence and Wolf last week.

“Transgender immigrants are simply not safe in immigration detention,” reads the groups’ letter.

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U.S. Military/Pentagon

U.S. Army considering letting LGBTQ+ troops transfer out of hostile states

This policy tweak to the existing Army regulations pertaining to compassionate reassignment would clarify the current standard rules

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Top Army G-1 officer & enlisted advisor speaking with Joint Base Lewis-McChord single and dual military parents (Photo Credit: U.S. Army)

ARLINGTON, Va. – A draft policy is circulating among top officials of the U.S. Army that would allow soldiers to be able to request a transfer if they feel state or local laws discriminate against them based on gender, sex, religion, race or pregnancy.

Journalist Steve Beynon writing for Military.com reported last week the guidance, which would update a vague service policy to add specific language on discrimination, is far from final and would need approval from Army Secretary Christine Wormuth. But if enacted, it could be one of the most progressive policies for the Army amid a growing wave of local anti-LGBTQ+ and restrictive contraception laws in conservative-leaning states, where the Army has a majority of its bases and major commands.

“Some states are becoming untenable to live in; there’s a rise in hate crimes and rise in LGBT discrimination,” Lindsay Church, executive director of Minority Veterans of America, an advocacy group, told Military.com. “In order to serve this country, people need to be able to do their job and know their families are safe. All of these states get billions for bases but barely tolerate a lot of the service members.”

This policy tweak to the existing Army regulations pertaining to compassionate reassignment would clarify the current standard rules, which are oft times fairly vague.

A source in the Army told Beynon the new guidance has not yet been fully worked out through the policy planning process or briefed to senior leaders including the Army Secretary or the Office of the Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

“The Army does not comment on leaked, draft documents,” Angel Tomko, a service spokesperson, told Military.com in an emailed statement. “AR 600-100 and 600-200 establish the criteria for which soldiers may request for a compassionate reassignment. The chain of command is responsible for ensuring Soldiers and Families’ needs are supported and maintain a high quality of life.”

A base member wears rainbow socks during Pride Month Five Kilometer Pride Run at Joint Base Andrews, Md., June 28, 2017.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Valentina Lopez)

The Crystal City Virginia based RAND Corporation had published a study on Sexual Orientation, Transgender Identity, and Health Among U.S. Active-Duty Service Members in 2015 that listed approximate numbers of LGBTQ+ troops are 6% gay or bisexual and 1% is transgender or nonbinary.

A senior analyst for RAND told the Blade on background those numbers are likely much lower than in actuality as 2015 was less than 4 years after the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell’ and prior to the Trump enacted Trans service ban in 2017 which was then repealed by the Biden Administration which has had a chilling effect on open service. Another factor is that the current 18-24 year old troops colloquially referred to as ‘Gen Z’ are much more inclined to embrace an LGBTQ+ identity and that would cause the numbers to be higher than reported.

Also factored in is uncertainty in the tweaking of policy in light of the recent leak of the draft U.S. Supreme Court decision that would effectively repeal Roe v Wade.

According to Military.com it’s unclear whether the Army’s inclusion of pregnancy on the list would protect reproductive care for soldiers if Roe v. Wade is overturned. That language could be intended to protect pregnant service members or their families from employment or other discrimination, but could also be a means for some to argue for transfers based on broader reproductive rights.

One advocacy group pointed out that the current wave of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation will negatively impact the moral of service members:

“What we’re seeing across the board is a small group of elected officials who are trying to politicize and weaponize LGBTQ identities in despicable ways. They’re not only doing that to our youth, but the collateral damage is hurting our service members,” Jacob Thomas, communications director for Common Defense, a progressive advocacy organization, told Military.com. “[Troops] can’t be forced to live in places where they aren’t seen as fully human.”

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Oklahoma

Oklahoma Senate passes anti-Trans bathroom bill sends it to Governor

The law stipulates that all students must use bathrooms and locker rooms that match the sex listed on their birth certificates

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Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (Screenshot/YouTube)

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Republican-majority state Senate passed SB 615 in a 38-7 vote, a measure that will bar transgender students in pre-K through 12th grade at public and public charter schools in the state from using bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

The bill now heads to Republican Governor Kevin Stitt and will be effective upon his signature into law.

The law stipulates that all students must use bathrooms and locker rooms that match the sex listed on their birth certificates. Transgender students who decline to use the restroom required under the measure would have to use “a single-occupancy restroom or changing room” provided by the school.

At the end of April Stitt signed that explicitly prohibits the use of nonbinary gender markers on state birth certificates and in March he signed into law Senate Bill 2, a bill which would restrict transgender girls from playing on school sports teams that match their gender identity. 

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New Hampshire

New Hampshire’s Republican Governor to veto “Don’t Say Gay” bill

“This bill is antithetical to all the work we have done to ensure individuals in the LGBT community can live a life free from discrimination”

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Governor Chris Sununu (Screenshot/ CBS Boston)

CONCORD – New Hampshire’s Republican Governor Chris Sununu announced Thursday that he will veto HB 1431, titled as the “Parental Bill of Rights,” legislation that would force school officials and faculty to take on the role of outing students to their families.

“This bill as written creates numerous challenges for kids,” the governor said. “I share the concerns of the attorney general and, as such, will veto the bill if it reaches my desk.”

The bill had undergone several changes with a final amended version working through both chambers pushed by Republican leadership.

The New Hampshire Bulletin reported Thursday that the bill has been opposed by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, LGBTQ+ rights groups, civil rights advocates, and teachers unions, who noted that the legislation would require schools to “out” trans students to their parents. They argued that doing so could be dangerous for some students and might discourage others from seeking help at school.

In interviews with Manchester’s ABC News affiliate WMUR-TV 9, supporters claimed it would allow parents to be more involved with their children’s school lives.

“They don’t know my child like I do,” said state Sen. Bill Gannon, R-Sandown. “I’m the one responsible for them. The child doesn’t have capacity on his own to give up whether or not he’s going to get certain medical treatment. I want to know what’s going on in my kid’s life.”

“So, there are a lot of cases where things are going on in a school system, and the parents are never informed, and this will allow for notification to the parents, and there’s a long list of things that would be notified – everything from bullying to failing grades,” said JR Hoell, treasurer of Rebuild NH, a group that organized around opposing COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and ally lawmakers decry the measure WMUR reported:

Opponents are blasting the bill, saying it would mean that if a student joins a specific club or confides in an adviser or teacher, schools would then inform parents, essentially outing gay, lesbian and transgender students.

“This bill is antithetical to all the work we have done in the state to ensure that individuals in the LGBT community can live a life free from discrimination,” said state Sen. Becky Whitley, D-Hopkinton.

“It’s totally inappropriate for school officials to take on the role of outing students to their families, and coming out should always be an intimate moment within a family, not a clumsy event,” said Chris Erchull, of GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders.

Last December a diverse group of educators, advocacy groups, and law firms filed a federal lawsuit challenging a New Hampshire classroom censorship law, contained within state budget bill HB2, which discourages public school teachers from teaching and talking about race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and gender identity in the classroom.

“This unconstitutionally vague law disallows students from receiving the inclusive, complete education they deserve, and from having important conversations on race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity in the classroom,” said Gilles Bissonnette, Legal Director of the ACLU of New Hampshire at the time of the lawsuit. “It is an attack on educators who are simply doing their job. Just four months into the school year, teachers are reporting being afraid to teach under this law for fear of being taken to court. This law, through vagueness and fear, erases the legacy of discrimination and lived experiences of Black and Brown people, women and girls, LGBTQ+ people, and people with disabilities.”

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