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ICE urged to release detainees at heightened risk for coronavirus

Disease could be ‘death threat’ to anyone with compromised immune system

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River Correctional Center in Ferriday, La., on Feb. 1, 2020. The privately-run U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center is roughly 10 miles west of Natchez, Miss. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Several LGBTQ advocacy groups on Tuesday called for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release all detainees in its custody and to close all of its detention centers because of coronavirus.

“People in ICE custody are vulnerable to getting COVID-19 given the close proximity of detained people to each other,” reads a press release the Transgender Law Center, the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration and Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement issued. “ICE officers, guards and other staff are also likely to transmit the virus.”

“Worldwide, epidemiologists are advising social distancing as a way to mitigate the spread of the novel COVID-19,” say the groups. “Prisons, jails and detention centers cannot accommodate this advice. Solitary confinement further impedes access to necessary medical care. Given ICE’s history of inadequate treatment and the recent deaths of eight immigrants in ICE custody in the last five months, it is clear that ICE is not ready nor equipped to handle a COVID-19 outbreak in any of its facilities.” 

Immigration Equality Executive Director Aaron Morris on Tuesday told the Los Angeles Blade during a telephone interview that ICE should release detainees with HIV/AIDS on parole because of the threat of coronavirus.

“Any communicable disease that is introduced into a detention facility spreads way faster than in the general population,” said Morris. “People are sandwiched in there. They are over-populated. They have no privacy and that is just a recipe for disaster.”

“This is a population for whom ICE has and corporate facilities have regularly struggled to provide appropriate care in the best of times,” he added, referring to ICE detainees with HIV/AIDS.

Roxsana Hernández, a transgender Honduran woman with HIV, was in ICE custody in New Mexico when she died on May 25, 2018. Johana “Joa” Medina Leon, a trans Salvadoran woman who was also living with HIV, died at a Texas hospital on June 1, 2019, three days after ICE released her from its custody.

Roxsana Hernández, a transgender woman with HIV, died in a New Mexico hospital on May 25, 2018, while in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A group of more than two dozen trans women who were in ICE custody at the Cibola County Correctional Center, a privately-run detention center in Milan, N.M., in a letter they sent to Trans Queer Pueblo, a Phoenix-based group that advocates on behalf of undocumented LGBTQ immigrants, last summer noted detainees with HIV did not receive “adequate” medical attention. Hernández was in ICE custody at the detention center before her death.

The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator concluded Hernández died from Castleman disease associated with AIDS.

The Transgender Law Center, which represents Hernández’s family in a wrongful death lawsuit, commissioned a second autopsy that found the cause of death “most probably severe complications of dehydration superimposed upon HIV infection, with the probable presence of one or more opportunistic infections.” The second autopsy also found “evidence of physical abuse” that included bruises around her rib cage.

Arianna Lint, chief executive officer of Arianna’s Center, a South Florida organization that serves trans women, on Tuesday said ICE should also release trans women with HIV as a way to protect them from coronavirus.

“We are at the most risk,” Lint told the Blade during a telephone interview.

Elisabeth Grant-Gibson is a member of the Natchez Network Immigrant Support, a group of volunteers in the Miss Lou Region of Mississippi and Louisiana who support ICE detainees and their families through visitation, post-release assistance and a variety of other programs.

Grant-Gibson visited Yariel Valdés González — a Blade contributor who was in ICE custody for nearly a year — at the privately-run River Correctional Center in Ferriday, La., days before his March 4 release. Grant-Gibson on Tuesday said ICE should release people with HIV/AIDS and others who are at increased risk for coronavirus.

“It will be the guards who bring it in,” Grant-Gibson told the Blade. “Once in, it will be a problem.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Washington and the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project on Monday filed a federal lawsuit that calls for ICE to release its detainees who are at high-risk for coronavirus. The groups represent a group of immigrants who are in ICE custody at the privately-run Tacoma Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash.

The ACLU of Louisiana on March 12 called for ICE to release all asylum seekers and refugees in its custody in Louisiana after officials confirmed the first coronavirus case in the state. A press release notes Louisiana “now holds the second highest number of immigrant detainees in the U.S., many of whom are being held in private prisons in remote locations and have been denied an opportunity to be granted humanitarian parole.” 

“This public health crisis also poses a significant risk to thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers who are being warehoused in brutal conditions across Louisiana,” said ACLU of Louisiana Executive Director Alanah Odoms Hebert. “Seeking asylum is a legal right, and federal and state officials have an obligation to protect the health of people fleeing violence and persecution to seek refuge in this country.”

U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) in a letter he sent to Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence on March 13 wrote ICE “should consider alternatives to detention for those who pose no threat to public safety or national security, particularly those who are at a heightened risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19, such as the elderly and individuals with heart or lung conditions, diabetes, or compromised immune systems.”  

“ICE should also take steps to ensure that such individuals are not detained until the spread of the virus has sufficiently subsided,” added Nadler.

No confirmed coronavirus cases in ICE detention centers

ICE on its website says as of Tuesday there are no confirmed coronavirus cases at any of its detention facilities. ICE has also suspended visitation at all of its detention facilities.

“Law enforcement agencies across the country, to include ICE, are paying close attention to this pandemic,” an ICE spokesperson told the Blade on Tuesday.

“The health, welfare and safety of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees is one of the agency’s highest priorities,” added the spokesperson. “Since the onset of reports of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), ICE epidemiologists have been tracking the outbreak, regularly updating infection prevention and control protocols, and issuing guidance to ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) staff for the screening and management of potential exposure among detainees.”

The spokesperson said ICE “continues to incorporate CDC’s COVID-19 guidance, which is built upon the already established infectious disease monitoring and management protocols currently in use by the agency.”

“In addition, ICE is actively working with state and local health partners to determine if any detainee requires additional testing or monitoring to combat the spread of the virus,” added the spokesperson.

The spokesperson did not specifically say whether ICE has access to coronavirus tests in case a detainee or staff member shows symptoms of the disease. The spokesperson did, however, note ICE “does not conduct operations at medical facilities, except under extraordinary circumstances.”

“ICE policy directs our officers to avoid making arrests at sensitive locations — to include schools, places of worship, and health care facilities, such as hospitals, doctors’ offices, accredited health clinics, and emergent or urgent care facilities — without prior approval for an exemption, or in exigent circumstances,” the spokesperson told the Blade.

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Kansas

Anti-LGBTQ Kansas lawmaker who assaulted student given probation

In the classroom incident last Spring students recorded videos of the lawmaker talking about suicide, sex, masturbation, God and the Bible

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Kansas State House Representative Mark Samsel (R- House District 5/Wellsville) (Photo Credit: Kansas House)

OTTAWA, Ks. – Fourth Judicial Circuit Magistrate Judge Kevin Kimball sentenced Kansas House Representative Mark Samsel, (R- House District 5/Wellsville) to 90 days in jail (suspended) and probation for a year on Monday. Samsel was convicted of assaulting a male student after a physical altercation while he was substitute teaching at the Wellsville High School last April.

Samsel originally faced three misdemeanor battery charges following his arrest in April that involved two male victims, both approximately 16 years old.

The Kansas City reported that during a short hearing conducted over Zoom, Kimball in his ruling ordered that Samsel must apologize to his teenage victims. Samsel is also prohibited from using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms for personal use. An exception is included to allow social media for political and legislative purposes.

In the classroom incident last Spring that sparked four months of court proceedings according to the Kansas City Star, high school students began recording videos of the lawmaker talking about suicide, sex, masturbation, God and the Bible.

In one video shared with The Star, Samsel tells students about “a sophomore who’s tried killing himself three times,” adding that it was because “he has two parents and they’re both females.”

“He’s a foster kid. His alternatives in life were having no parents or foster care parents who are gay,” Samsel said.

The student videos additionally showed the lawmaker verbally targeting one student and encouraging other students to bully him.

The Star also reported: At one point, Samsel tells the student, “You’re about ready to anger me and get the wrath of God. Do you believe me when I tell you that God has been speaking to me?” He then pushes him, and the student runs to the other side of the classroom.

“You should run and scream.” In another video, he tells students, “Class, you have permission to kick him in the balls.”

Parents told The Star that Samsel “put hands on the student” and allegedly kneed him in the crotch. In a video apparently taken immediately after the incident, the student is shown on the ground. Samsel is standing over him and says, “did it hurt?”

He then asks him why he is about to start crying, pats him on the shoulder and apologizes, and then says he can “go to the nurse, she can check it for you.” Samsel addresses another student and says, “do you want to check his nuts for him, please?”

In another video, Samsel is shown telling the student about “distractions from the devil,” and then grabs him from behind and lifts him off his feet. In a different clip, he tells the student to go to the office. “You were not following — not my rules — God’s rules right now,” he tells the student. “You better take a Bible.”

“Keep denying God, keep denying God, see how it’s going to turn out,” he told the student.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal appeals court orders Trans professor fired in 2011 reinstated

The Tenth Circuit also rejected Southeastern’s cross-appeal in its entirety, citing the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County

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U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Byron White Courthouse Denver Colorado (Photo Credit - Library of Congress Collections)

DENVER – The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 55-page ruling issued Monday, ordered Southeastern Oklahoma State University located in Durant, Oklahoma to reinstate a Trans professor who was fired over a decade ago.

Douglas N. McMillan, then interim vice president for academic affairs at the university reportedly said that the professor’s “lifestyle” offended his Baptist beliefs.

Dr. Rachel Tudor, a 54-year-old Native American member of the Chickasaw Nation, in a statement released after the appellate court’s ruling said that [she is] “looking forward to being the first tenured Native American professor in her department in the 100-plus year history of the Native American-serving institution that is Southeastern Oklahoma State University.”

The 10th Circuit in its ruling overturned a lower District Court in Oklahoma City that had ruled “reinstatement would not be possible due to alleged hostility between Dr. Tudor and Southeastern.”

Tudor worked as a tenure-track professor of English at Southeastern Oklahoma State University between 2004 and 2011. In 2007, she informed Southeastern that she would be transitioning and that her gender identity was female. Following this, she was denied tenure and terminated even though her own students and the English Department supported her tenure application.

In her appeal, Tudor was represented by the Washington D.C. based National Women’s Law Center and its private law firm counsel, Erica Lai, who argued for NWLC.

In a recap statement NWLC noted:

The Tenth Circuit also rejected Southeastern’s cross-appeal in its entirety, heavily citing the Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, which overruled previous 10th Circuit precedent and held that discrimination against transgender employees is sex discrimination under Title VII.  

 After fighting her case in the courts, she won her jury trial on November 20, 2017. Although the jury awarded her $1,165,000, the court both lowered this amount to $300,000 and then awarded her only front-pay wages in an amount of $60,040.77. This front-pay figure was calculated without the court undertaking any meaningful analysis as to her ability to return to a tenure job in English at Southeastern as she wanted, or what amount would make up for her lost future earnings.

[…] Also, courts have made clear that employers may not cite litigation-related hostility as a reason to refuse someone a job. Finally, as the jury found, Dr. Tudor was only denied tenure because of sex discrimination.

Tudor’s statement reflected her desire to return to the classroom and press on the Tulsa World reported:

As injurious as the sex discrimination and retaliation were to Dr. Tudor, she did not consider it merely personal. Rather, she was a symbol to those who discriminated against her. They wanted to create an environment where certain views and certain people are punished to create fear and shame instead of self-confidence and opportunity for all.

“They wanted people like Dr. Tudor to be afraid, and to go away. Instead of going away, instead of accepting a settlement — conditioned on never teaching in Oklahoma — she fought for the rights and dignity of her Native and LGBT communities.

“Dr. Tudor would like to thank her allies and colleagues for their support through 10 long years of fighting for justice. She is grateful and honored to be the recipient of their goodwill. She promises to repay their trust by being the best professor she can be.”

 

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Colorado

Anti-LGBTQ extremist Bob Enyart who spread COVID lies- dies from virus

Enyart proudly referred to himself as “America’s most popular right-wing, religious fanatic, homophobic, anti-choice talk show host”

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Bob Enyart (Screenshot via KUSA9 NBC News Denver)

DENVER – The vehemently anti-LGBTQ preacher who made national headlines over his gleefully reading out the obituaries of AIDS victims on his cable television show, while cranking out the song “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen- whose lead singer, Freddie Mercury, died from that disease, has himself died from complications after contracting COVID-19.

Bob Enyart, 62, who had proudly referred to himself as “America’s most popular self-proclaimed right-wing, religious fanatic, homophobic, anti-choice talk show host” and pastor of the Denver Bible Church, died Monday after a short battle with the coronavirus. The news was confirmed by his longtime radio and podcast show co-host Fred Williams in a Facebook post Monday.

Enyart and his second wife Cheryl, had both contracted COVID-19 after refusing to take the vaccine citing pro-life reasons; “Bob and Cheryl Enyart have sworn off taking the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson vaccines because, as those firms admit, they tested these three products on the cells of aborted babies,” according to a statement in August on Enyart’s webpage.

In addition to falsely claiming that the vaccines were developed using fetal tissue, Enyart urged his followers to boycott the vaccines to “further increase social tension and put pressure on the child killers. (Remember, many institutions and celebrities who have been “pro-choice” all along are now also calling to legalize infanticide, what they call after-birth abortion.

In October of 2020, Enyart filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Denver asking to overturn the Colorado State Public Health order on facial masks at religious services, as well as rules limiting gatherings to 175 people amid the pandemic.

U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Domenico, who was appointed by President Trump, granted a temporary restraining order against the health order.

A long time radical anti-abortion activists and a spokesperson for the pro-life Colorado Right to Life, Enyart in 2009 along with other antiabortion protesters were jailed over protest at Focus on the Family after the group accused Focus founder James Dobson of not being antiabortion enough.

After attempting to deliver a letter to Focus president James Daly deploring Dobson’s endorsement of 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, American Right to Life Action members staged an hour long standoff with ministry security, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.

In addition to his open hostility towards the LGBTQ community on air, in 2016 protesting the U.S. Supreme Court ruling the previous year that granted same-sex couples the right to marry, the Huffington Post reported that he released a bizarre video as part of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) boycott of Starbucks, after the coffee-based chain announced its support of same-sex marriage.

As first reported by Good As You blogger Jeremy Hopper, Pastor Bob Enyart of Denver Bible Church purchased a Starbucks coffee before proceeding to dump it down a sewer in protest.

“Jesus Christ said God made us male and female at the beginning of the creation,” Enyart proclaims. “Starbucks, in a move that’s not wise for eternity and not good for business here and now, has decided to promote homosexual marriage.”

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