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Bi Black man alleges abuse at ICE detention center

“White’s case is not an anomaly or an exception within the system, but rather the norm- the world needs to know what’s been going on”

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Paul White remains in ICE custody at the Caroline Detention Center in Bowling Green, Va. (Illustration courtesy of Leanne Gale)

BOWLING GREEN, Va. – A bisexual Black man in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody says he continues to suffer abuse at the Virginia detention center in which he is being detained.

Paul White has been in ICE custody at the Caroline Detention Center in Caroline County, which is roughly 70 miles south of D.C., since August 2020.

Amanda Díaz of Freedom for Immigrants, a group that seeks to end the detention of immigrants and asylum seekers, in a July 15 complaint she sent to Caroline Detention Facility Supt. Paul Perry, ICE Washington Field Office Director Matthew Munroe, Department of Homeland Security Officer for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Katherine Culliton-González and DHS Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari notes three specific “use of force” incidents against White.

The complaint notes three Caroline Detention Facility staffers on Nov. 5, 2020, brought White to a “rover security office” in the back of the dining hall after he complained about the quality of the food he received for dinner. White alleges one of the staffers then “grabbed” him “by his jumper collar and slammed him into the door, threatening that if he moved or said anything, he was going to kill him.”

White during a Nov. 11 telephone interview from the Caroline Detention Facility told the Washington Blade that the staffer assaulted him in an area without video surveillance. White said he filed a complaint with ICE, but “nothing happened.”

The complaint notes the same Caroline Detention Facility staffer who assaulted White last November “approached” him “in his dorm” on Feb. 10 and asked to speak to him.” White, according to the complaint, “refused” and the staffer “then asked to speak to him in the library, where [White] was under the impression that there were no cameras.”

The complaint says White “was afraid to go with” the staffer “to a place with no cameras and refused again.” The staffer then “put everyone in the dorm on lockdown and put [White] in segregation and charged him with “approaching” the staffer “in a threatening manner.” White, according to the complaint, returned to his dorm after the charge was dismissed.

The complaint states a Caroline Detention Facility staffer on May 10 “handcuffed my client and dragged him across the floor on his knees” after White challenged new rules about where detainees could sit in the dining hall.

“I was cuffed because I refused to walk because I was wrongfully targeted and I was like I’m not going to walk,” White told the Blade. “He started dragging me on the ground.”

White said the staffer then threatened to mace him.

“He pulled his mace out, had it over my face and threatened me if I don’t get up and walk, he was going to mace me,” said White. “I turned to him and I was like, ‘I’m in cuffs and you’re going to mace me.’”

White said the next morning he took 10 600 mg Ibuprofen pills in an attempt to die by suicide. White told the Blade that Caroline Detention Facility staffers placed him into an isolation cell, and the pills were among the personal belongings he said they brought to him.

“I was just tired of the abuse that I’ve been suffering by the hands of this facility and ICE,” said White. “I felt like I was worthless and I just wanted to end the pain.”

White described to the Blade another incident in which he said an ICE officer took his blankets and bedsheets away from him after he questioned why they demanded he get out of bed.

“They say we can’t be under our covers from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.,” said White. “I told him that’s punishment and this is not prison, and he still went ahead and did it.”

White said he didn’t get his “stuff back until” 7 p.m. White told the Blade he reported the incident to both ICE and Caroline Detention Facility staffers, but “they did nothing about it.”

Freedom for Immigrants, the National Lawyers Guild’s National Immigrant Project and the Free Them All VA Coalition on Aug. 31 filed a separate complaint with Culliton-González on behalf of White and 18 other people who are currently in ICE custody at the Caroline Detention Facility or were previously held there.

“Since April 2021, we have received reports from these 19 individuals being held at Caroline Detention Facility who have called the Freedom for Immigrants (FFI) National Immigration Detention Hotline and individual advocates to report that they have suffered from physical and verbal abuse, contaminated food, denials of right to practice religion, medical neglect, denial of disability accommodations, unsanitary conditions, phone access restrictions, solitary confinement and/or COVID-19 negligence,” reads the complaint. “These reports demonstrate a pattern and practice of ongoing and blatant violations of the 2011 ICE Performance-Based National Detention Standards, with which Caroline Detention Facility is required to comply per their contract with ICE.”

White told the Blade that he tested positive for COVID-19 last November. He said he is now vaccinated, but stressed facility staffers don’t wear face masks and don’t properly clean the detention center.

White also said he had a “mental breakdown” a few weeks ago and a Caroline Detention Facility staff person told him “you need to speak with me first” when he asked to speak with a mental health professional and an ICE officer.

“I said, ‘No, you’re not mental health and you’re not ICE,” said White, recalling what he said he told the staff person. “He told me that I’m in his jurisdiction. I said jurisdiction. I said man, listen, you’re not going to put no cuffs on me like the last time you did and dragged me.”

White told the Blade that he was eventually allowed to see a mental health professional in the infirmary, but the Caroline Detention Facility staffer nevertheless wrote him up and placed him in segregation. White said he was found not guilty, but the staffer who filed the complaint against him later threatened him.

“The captain looked at me and said I was lucky because if it were him he would have hurt me,” said White.

White also told the Blade that his overall physical health has deteriorated since he arrived at Caroline Detention Facility.

White fears deportation to ‘homophobic’ homeland

White is from a country that he asked the Blade not to identify, but he said consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized there.

He arrived in the U.S. in 2001 after his mother sponsored him for a green card.

White lived in New York for several years. He worked as a cable company technician before he began an entertainment company and opened a restaurant. White, who has a daughter, moved to Henrico County, Va., in 2012.

He said he was arrested in Chesterfield County, Va., but did not tell the Blade why.

“Basically, as a Black man I was targeted and the justice system basically sent me to prison,” said White.

White has asked the U.S. to grant him protection under the U.N. Convention against Torture due to the persecution he said he would suffer in his home country because of his sexual orientation.

An immigration judge in May ruled against White.

White appealed the ruling to the Virginia-based Board of Immigration Appeals, but it dismissed his case last week.

“Mr. White is currently exploring options to continue pursuing his case,” White’s former attorney, Leanne Gale, told the Blade in an email.

White told the Blade he is “pretty much scared to my gut” about being deported to his home country.

“I’m going back to a country that I left 20 years ago and I have no financial support,” he said. “Basically, I have to go back to the same place where they’re waiting for me, that I’m going to be harmed.”

White further described his country as “homophobic.”

“The laws stated that if you’re gay or lesbian, you’re supposed to be locked up and persecuted,” he said. “I see guys got killed, burned and beaten with car tires. I’ve heard of people who got shot and the police’s not going to do nothing about it … the communities govern themselves. When you’re been exposed as being gay, lesbian or bisexual, even your mom, your dad, your cousins, your uncles, they’re all against you and you potentially might not be killed by a stranger. You might be killed by your own parents.”

ICE ‘has zero tolerance for all forms of abuse’

ICE spokesperson James Covington in a statement he sent to the Blade on Monday did not specifically comment on White’s allegations. Covington, however, stressed ICE “has zero tolerance for all forms of abuse, assault, or neglect against individuals in the agency’s custody. Furthermore, ICE practices strict adherence to all federally mandated COVID-19 protocols at all of our facilities.”

“ICE focuses on prevention and intervention with specific requirements for detainee supervision, classification, and background checks for staff and contractors,” said Covington. “Moreover, ICE works extensively to ensure that all detainees are aware of how to make an allegation of abuse or assault, that allegations are treated seriously, that detainees are protected and provided all required services, and that thorough investigations are completed. The agency has implemented policies and procedures to establish an environment where staff and detainees are encouraged and feel comfortable reporting allegations and do not face any retaliation for bringing to light concerning behavior. ICE and facility staff receive specialized training to appropriately respond to all allegations in a professional and timely manner.”

White in a follow-up statement to the Blade said he has “not personally seen any investigation” done in response to his complaints.

“I tried to press charges and they wouldn’t help me,” he said. “They do not take any of our complaints seriously.”

LGBTQ immigrant groups rally behind White

The Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project and La ColectiVA have launched a campaign that urges ICE to release White. The groups have also been adding money to White’s commissary account at the Caroline Detention Facility.

Uchechukwu Onwa, co-director of the Queer Detainee Empowerment Project, spent three months in ICE custody in Atlanta in 2017 after he arrived in the U.S. from Nigeria. Onwa on Tuesday told the Blade during a telephone interview that he is “not surprised” by White’s allegations.

“This is something that we see happen a lot with immigrant communities, but also it’s happened more within the LGBTQ immigrant community and then being Black as well, so this is all linked to anti-Blackness, xenophobia and racist attack,” said Onwa.

June Kuoch, a Queer Detainee Empowerment Project organizer, agreed.

“Mr. White’s case is not an anomaly or an exception within the system, but rather the norm,” they said.

“As a Black, bisexual man, Mr. White has been the target of escalated abuse and violence while in detention,” Díaz told the Blade in a statement.

She added White “continues to resist, organize and advocate for the release of himself and others despite ICE continuing to target him.”

“His leadership and willingness to speak out in the face of ongoing abuse is a salient reminder that no matter where someone came from or who we are, everybody’s life is of value and worthy of justice, safety, and dignity,” said Díaz.

White told the Blade “the world needs to know what’s been going on behind these walls when we’ve been detained.”

“Through my story they can understand and know that ICE itself they have been violating the (U.N.) Convention against Torture, and this is what they’ve been doing,” he said. “They’ve been torturing us mentally, and sometimes physically.”

Federal Government

One million plus same-sex households in U.S., California has most

Data also revealed that roughly 710,000 of the same-sex couple households were married and about 500,000 were unmarried

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US Census Bureau Headquarters, Suitland, Maryland (Photo Credit: Photo by Hubert Dobson, U.S. Census Bureau)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Census Bureau last week released a report that detailed that there were about 1.2 million same-sex couple households in the United States in 2021. Data also revealed that roughly 710,000 of the same-sex couple households were married and about 500,000 were unmarried.

Since 2005 the number of same-sex households in the U.S. has steadily increased, with about 540,000 reported in 2008 and then in 2019, the last year the Census reported data, there were about 980,000 same-sex households in the country.

The data, based on American Community Survey (ACS), which shows estimates from 2005 through 2021, was not released in 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19 on ACS data collection.

Other highlights from the release:

  • The average age of householders in same-sex married couples (48.9 years) was lower than in opposite-sex married couples (52.8 years). But the average age of householders in same-sex unmarried couples (42.0 years) was higher than in opposite-sex unmarried couples (39.9 years).
  • The share of female-female and male-male couples with both partners employed did not differ significantly, though median household income in female same-sex couple households ($92,470) was lower than in male same-sex couple households ($116,800).
  • Both partners had at least a bachelor’s degree in a larger share of same-sex (29.6%) than opposite-sex (18.1%) unmarried couples.
  • A larger share of same-sex (31.6%) than opposite-sex (18.4%) married couples were interracial.
  • The District of Columbia (2.5%) had the highest percentage of same-sex couple households of any state or state equivalent. California has the most same-sex households at 163,964.
  • States with the highest number of same-sex households include Washington, D.C., Hawaii, Delaware, Oregon, California, Florida and New York, all of which include more than 1 percent of same-sex households in the total household population.

This is the second time the Census Bureau has released ACS estimates of same-sex couple households since revising the survey’s relationship to householder question to more accurately capture same-sex relationships.

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Homeland Security: More attacks against LGBTQ people possible

Some domestic violent extremists who have conducted attacks have cited previous attacks and attackers as inspiration

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Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Homeland Security

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a terror threat bulletin today warning that domestic extremists have posted online praise for the fatal shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado earlier this month. and have called for copycat attacks.

In its bulletin, DHS officials noted that several recent attacks, plots, and threats of violence demonstrate the continued dynamic and complex nature of the threat environment in the United States:

“Some domestic violent extremists who have conducted attacks have cited previous attacks and attackers as inspiration. Following the late November shooting at an LGBTQI+ bar in Colorado Springs, Colorado—which remains under investigation—we have observed actors on forums known to post racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist content praising the alleged attacker. Similarly, some domestic violent extremists in the United States praised an October 2022 shooting at a LGBTQI+ bar in Slovakia and encouraged additional violence. The attacker in Slovakia posted a manifesto online espousing white supremacist beliefs and his admiration for prior attackers, including some within the United States,” DHS warned.

DHS also asked that Americans report potential threats:

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Federal Government

Nonbinary Dept. of Energy official replaced after felony charges

Extreme right-wing Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) published an offensive tweet yesterday targeting their nonbinary identity

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Sam Brinton addressing Trevor Project gathering in 2018. Screenshot/YouTube The Trevor Project

WASHINGTON – The Department of Energy replaced a nonbinary senior official who had served as the agency’s deputy assistant secretary for spent fuel and waste disposition after they were charged with a felony over an incident at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Sept. 16.

Sam Brinton, whose departure from the Energy Department was confirmed by a spokesperson to the New York Post, did not immediately respond to the Washington Blade’s request for comment via Facebook Messenger.

Brinton, who has dual degrees from MIT and years of experience in nuclear waste management and climate change work, is also an LGBTQ activist who made history this year with their appointment as the first openly gender-fluid person to serve in a senior government post.

A 2018 column in the Los Angeles Times argued there was a cultural shift afoot towards greater acceptance of transgender and gender fluid people — using, as an introductory anecdote, Brinton’s appearance at the Academy Awards. According to the author, Brinton spoke passionately about their suicide prevention work for the Trevor Project and was embraced by Hollywood icons like Jane Fonda.

They also encountered some hateful backlash from anti-LGBTQ figures on the right, which was renewed on Monday with the news about Brinton’s dismissal pursuant to the felony charges filed against them, which conservative-leaning outlets were among the first to report.

Extreme right-wing Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) published an offensive tweet yesterday targeting Brinton and their nonbinary identity:

According to reporting in the New York Post, during an initial conversation with police, Brinton allegedly denied that they had stolen another passenger’s suitcase. Subsequently, Brinton told investigators they accidentally grabbed the wrong bag at the luggage carousel by mistake out of exhaustion.

Court filings indicate that Brinton, upon realizing they had mistakenly taken someone else’s bag, emptied its contents into dresser drawers in their hotel room, anxious about the prospect of facing accusations of property theft.

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Federal Government

$600 Million in refunds returned to airline passengers

Airlines were also fined $7.25 Million in civil penalties against six airlines for extreme delays in providing refunds

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg left, with flight crew from U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Clearwater during search & rescue operations in the wake of hurricane Ian in Florida, October 2022. (Photo by USCG 7th District Public Affairs/DOT)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation, (DOT) announced Monday that six U.S. air carriers, targeted by the DOT paid more than half a billion dollars to people who were owed a refund due to a canceled or significantly changed flight.

In a press release, the DOT noted that these fines are part of DOT’s ongoing work to ensure Americans receive the refunds they are owed from airlines. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, DOT has received a flood of complaints from air travelers about airlines’ failures to provide timely refunds after they had their flights canceled or significantly changed. 

“When a flight gets canceled, passengers seeking refunds should be paid back promptly. Whenever that doesn’t happen, we will act to hold airlines accountable on behalf of American travelers and get passengers their money back.” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “A flight cancellation is frustrating enough, and you shouldn’t also have to haggle or wait months to get your refund.” 

In addition to the more than $600 million in refunds airlines have paid back, the Department announced today that it is assessing more than $7.25 million in civil penalties against six airlines for extreme delays in providing refunds.

With today’s fines, the Department’s Office of Aviation Consumer Protection has assessed $8.1 million in civil penalties in 2022, the largest amount ever issued in a single year by that office. A majority of the assessed fines will be collected in the form of payments to the Treasury Department, with the remainder credited on the basis of payments to passengers beyond the legal requirement.

The Department’s efforts have helped lead to hundreds of thousands of passengers being provided with more than half a billion dollars in required refunds. The Department expects to issue additional orders assessing civil penalties for consumer protection violations this calendar year. 

The fines assessed today and required refunds provided are: 

  • Frontier – $222 million in required refunds paid and a $2.2 million penalty 
  • Air India – $121.5 million in required refunds paid and a $1.4 million penalty 
  • TAP Portugal – $126.5 million in required refunds paid and a $1.1 million penalty 
  • Aeromexico – $13.6 million in required refunds paid and a $900,000 penalty 
  • El Al – $61.9 million in required refunds paid and a $900,000 penalty 
  • Avianca – $76.8 million in required refunds paid and a $750,000 penalty 

Under U.S. law, airlines and ticket agents have a legal obligation to refund consumers if the airline cancels or significantly changes a flight to, from and within the United States, and the passenger does not wish to accept the alternative offered. It is unlawful for an airline to refuse refunds and instead provide vouchers to such consumers.  

The fines announced today are one of the many steps the Department is taking to protect consumers. Below are additional actions DOT has taken: 

  • During the summer, the Department rolled out a new airline customer service dashboard to help consumers determine what they are owed when a flight is cancelled or delayed because of an airline issue. Previously, none of the 10 largest U.S. airlines guaranteed meals or hotels when a delay or cancellation was within the airlines’ control, and only one offered free rebooking. However, after Secretary Buttigieg called on airlines to improve their service and created this dashboard, nine airlines now guarantee meals and hotels when an airline issue causes a cancellation or delay and all 10 guarantee free rebooking. The Department will continue to work to increase transparency so Americans know exactly what the airlines are providing when they have a cancellation or delay. 
     
  • The Department’s proposed rule on Airline Ticket Refunds, if adopted, would: 1) require airlines to proactively inform passengers that they have a right to receive a refund when a flight is canceled or significantly changed, and 2) define a significant change and cancellation that would entitle a consumer to a refund. The rule would also 3) require airlines to provide non-expiring vouchers or travel credits when people can’t travel because they have COVID-19 or other communicable diseases; and 4) require airlines that receive significant government assistance in the future related to a pandemic to issue refunds instead of non-expiring travel credits or vouchers when passengers are unable or advised not to travel because of a serious communicable disease.
     
  • The Department has proposed a rule that would significantly strengthen protections for consumers by ensuring that they have access to certain fee information before they purchase their airline tickets. Under the proposed rule, airlines and travel search websites would have to disclose upfront – the first time an airfare is displayed – any fees charged to sit with your child, for changing or cancelling your flight, and for checked or carry-on baggage. The proposal seeks to provide customers the information they need to choose the best deal. Otherwise, surprise fees can add up quickly and overcome what may look at first to be a cheap fare. DOT encourages members of the public and interested parties to submit comments by December 19, 2022. 

The Department has proposed a rule to refund passengers for services they paid for that aren’t actually provided (e.g., broken WiFi). 

The Department invites the public to submit comment on this rulemaking by December 16, 2022. The Department’s Aviation Consumer Protection Advisory Committee will publicly deliberate on the Department’s proposed rule on Airline Ticket Refunds and decide on recommendations to make to the Department at a virtual meeting on December 9, 2022. To register and attend this virtual meeting, please use this link:

 https://usdot.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_V2zwVF3RQfuoOkyYFVqvdA

For information about airline passenger rights, as well as DOT’s rules, guidance, and orders, the Department’s aviation consumer website can be found at:

https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer

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Federal Government

U.S. Justice Dept. to monitor for federal voting rights compliance

DoJ staff will be available Election Day to receive complaints from the public related to possible violations of federal voting rights laws

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Robert F. Kennedy U.S. Department of Justice building, Washington D.C. (Photo by Gregory Varnum)

Editor’s note: The following statement from the Office of the Attorney General of the United States is provided as a public service.

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced today its plans to monitor compliance with federal voting rights laws in 64 jurisdictions in 24 states for the Nov. 8, 2022 general election.

Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Civil Rights Division has regularly monitored elections in the field in jurisdictions around the country to protect the rights of voters. The Civil Rights Division will also take complaints from the public nationwide regarding possible violations of the federal voting rights laws through its call center. The Civil Rights Division enforces the federal voting rights laws that protect the rights of all citizens to access the ballot.   

For the general election, the Civil Rights Division will monitor for compliance with the federal voting rights laws on Election Day and/or in early voting in 64 jurisdictions: 

  • City of Bethel, Alaska;
  • Dillingham Census Area, Alaska;
  • Kusilvak Census Area, Alaska;
  • Sitka City-Borough, Alaska;
  • Maricopa County, Arizona;
  • Navajo County, Arizona;
  • Pima County, Arizona;
  • Pinal County, Arizona;
  • Yavapai County, Arizona;
  • Newton County, Arkansas;
  • Los Angeles County, California;
  • Sonoma County, California;
  • Broward County, Florida;
  • Miami-Dade County, Florida;
  • Palm Beach County, Florida;
  • Cobb County, Georgia;
  • Fulton County, Georgia;
  • Gwinnett County, Georgia;
  • Town of Clinton, Massachusetts;
  • City of Everett, Massachusetts;
  • City of Fitchburg, Massachusetts;
  • City of Leominster, Massachusetts;
  • City of Malden, Massachusetts;
  • City of Methuen, Massachusetts;
  • City of Randolph, Massachusetts;
  • City of Salem, Massachusetts;
  • Prince George’s County, Maryland;
  • City of Detroit, Michigan;
  • City of Flint, Michigan;
  • City of Grand Rapids, Michigan;
  • City of Pontiac, Michigan;
  • City of Southfield, Michigan;
  • City of Minneapolis, Minnesota;
  • Hennepin County, Minnesota;
  • Ramsey County, Minnesota;
  • Cole County, Missouri;
  • Alamance County, North Carolina;
  • Columbus County, North Carolina;
  • Harnett County, North Carolina;
  • Mecklenburg County, North Carolina;
  • Wayne County, North Carolina;
  • Middlesex County, New Jersey;
  • Bernalillo County, New Mexico;
  • San Juan County, New Mexico;
  • Clark County, Nevada;
  • Washoe County, Nevada;
  • Queens County, New York;
  • Cuyahoga County, Ohio;
  • Berks County, Pennsylvania;
  • Centre County, Pennsylvania;
  • Lehigh County, Pennsylvania;
  • Luzerne County, Pennsylvania;
  • Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania;
  • City of Pawtucket, Rhode Island;
  • Horry County, South Carolina;
  • Dallas County, Texas;
  • Harris County, Texas;
  • Waller County, Texas;
  • San Juan County, Utah;
  • City of Manassas, Virginia;
  • City of Manassas Park, Virginia;
  • Prince William County, Virginia;
  • City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and,
  • City of Racine, Wisconsin.

Monitors will include personnel from the Civil Rights Division and from U.S. Attorneys’ Offices. In addition, the division also deploys monitors from the Office of Personnel Management, where authorized by federal court order. Division personnel will also maintain contact with state and local election officials.

The Civil Rights Division’s Voting Section enforces the civil provisions of federal statutes that protect the right to vote, including the Voting Rights Act, the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, the National Voter Registration Act, the Help America Vote Act and the Civil Rights Acts.

The division’s Disability Rights Section enforces the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to ensure that persons with disabilities have a full and equal opportunity to vote.

The division’s Criminal Section enforces federal criminal statutes that prohibit voter intimidation and voter suppression based on race, color, national origin or religion. 

On Election Day, Civil Rights Division personnel will be available all day to receive complaints from the public related to possible violations of the federal voting rights laws by a complaint form on the department’s website https://civilrights.justice.gov/ or by telephone toll-free at 800-253-3931. 

Individuals with questions or complaints related to the ADA may call the department’s toll-free ADA information line at 800-514-0301 or 833-610-1264 (TTY) or submit a complaint through a link on the department’s ADA website, at https://www.ada.gov/.

Complaints related to disruption at a polling place should always be reported immediately to local election officials (including officials in the polling place). Complaints related to violence, threats of violence or intimidation at a polling place should be reported immediately to local police authorities by calling 911. These complaints should also be reported to the department after local authorities have been contacted.

The Justice Department recently announced its overall plans for the general election to protect the right to vote and secure the integrity of the voting process through the work of the Civil Rights Division, Criminal Division, National Security Division and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices. 

More information about the federal civil rights laws is available on the Civil Rights Division’s website at https://www.justice.gov/crt.

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Federal Government

USAID highlights work to promote LGBTQ+, intersex rights in Latin America, Caribbean

Blade spoke with Deputy Administrator Paloma Adams-Allen on Oct. 24

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Deputy U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Paloma Adams-Allen. (Photo courtesy of USAID)

WASHINGTON — Deputy U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Paloma Adams-Allen during a recent interview with the Washington Blade highlighted USAID’s efforts to promote LGBTQ+ and intersex rights in the Caribbean, Latin America and around the world.

Adams-Allen on Oct. 24 noted USAID has “invested” in programs that seek to fight gender-based violence against LGBTQ+ and intersex people in Honduras and Guatemala. 

She, like Vice President Kamala Harris and other U.S. officials, acknowledged violence based on gender identity and sexual orientation is among the “root causes” of migration from the two countries and neighboring El Salvador.

“Migration is a human right,” said Adams-Allen. “Folks are allowed to migrate, but what we’ve discovered, particularly with the LGBTQI+ population is that, not surprisingly, violence against this community is a driver.”

Adams-Allen noted USAID in Guatemala through its Electoral Governance and Reforms Project provides what she described as “technical assistance to help advance LGBTQI+ rights through legal reforms initiatives.” Adams-Allen also told the Blade that USAID in Guatemala supports efforts to invest “more directly in local organizations as implementing partners” for election observation and in other areas.

“We’re looking to strengthen local LGBTQI+ organizations to enhance their capacity,” she said.

USAID continues to support the implementation of Colombia’s peace agreement that specifically includes LGBTQ+ and intersex people through the Youth Resilience Activity, a program that works with vulnerable young people across the country. USAID also works with the U.N. Development Program’s Being LGBTI in the Caribbean initiative that seeks to promote LGBTQ and intersex rights in the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and Barbados.

USAID Senior LGBTQI+ Coordinator Jay Gilliam last week announced during the initiative’s second National LGBTI+ Dialogue in the Dominican Republic that USAID will donate an additional $2 million for economic programs for Transgender women.

Adams-Allen noted USAID supports the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice’s Multi-Donor LGBTI Global Human Rights Initiative that supports efforts to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations in countries throughout the Caribbean and to reduce stigma, discrimination and violence against LGBTQ+ and intersex people. Adams-Allen also highlighted CuéntaNos, an initiative in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras that provides information about access to safe housing, health care and other basic services for LGBTQ+ and intersex people and other vulnerable groups who are fleeing from natural disasters.

“It helps guide them to where safe places are,” said Adams-Allen.

Adams-Allen, who was born in Jamaica, was previously the president and CEO of the Inter-American Foundation. Adams-Allen was a deputy assistant USAID administrator and a senior advisor in the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean from 2010-2016. 

Jamaica is among the countries in the Caribbean in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized.

Then-President Barack Obama in 2015 applauded Angeline Jackson-Whitaker, a prominent Jamaican LGBTQ+ and intersex rights activist, during a town hall meeting in Kingston, the country’s capital. Adams-Allen referenced the trip to the Blade, noting there was “definitely pushback, even against him.”

The Blade spoke with Adams-Allen a few days after Fox News reported USAID gave a $20,600 grant to a cultural center in the Ecuadorian city of Cuenca that hosts drag shows.

Adams-Allen declined to specifically comment on the report, but she did say USAID does “support the full richness of the LGBTQI+ community in Latin America and the Caribbean and that may include folks that Fox may not be interested in working with.” Adams-Allen further stressed that President Joe Biden’s 2021 memo that committed the U.S. to promoting LGBTQ and intersex rights abroad as part of his administration’s overall foreign policy is “a North Star for our work to advance LGBTQI+ programming, but also just our broader, truly development.”

USAID co-hosted 2022 Hispanic Serving Institutions/LatinX Conference in Miami

Adams-Allen on Oct. 20 delivered the keynote address at the 2022 Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs)/LatinX Conference in Miami that USAID co-hosted with Florida International University.

USAID in a readout notes Adams-Allen’s speech highlighted “the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in USAID’s recruiting, programming and partnerships.” Adams-Allen noted the conference is the second such event that USAID has organized “to really to start to gin up more interest among Hispanic and Latino-serving institutions in working at USAID as well as being implementing partners, potentially, of USAID.”

“I wanted to go down and really to try to put some more energy into just underscore, now that we’re coming out of the virtual world, I wanted to do this in person, to really underscore quickly to this population … that there’s a place for Hispanic Americans, Latino Americans, Latinx Americans, at USAID if they’re interested, particularly in international careers, but even if they’re not,” she said.

“I think students tend to think that they have to be technical experts in global health issues and maternal and child health or emergency response. And they don’t realize necessarily that we need everyone, we need writers, we need lawyers, we need communicators,” added Adams-Allen. “That particularly this community has certain, what I would say, cultural competencies that makes them particularly aligned with USAID’s whether it be experience living in Latin America in the Caribbean, or family from those regions, experience navigating several languages at home or in school, in the workplace. So they already have some inbuilt some inbuilt strengths, that makes them particularly well suited to consider careers at USAID. And I really wanted to just bolster folks’ confidence and let them know that there’s a place for them if they’re interested in their support for them if they’re interested. And so that was really the thrust of my participation.”

Adams-Allen noted LGBTQ+ and intersex people were among those who participated in the conference, which took place at Florida International University’s Miami campus.

“LGBTQI+ issues are sort of crosscutting of the ethnic group that we are engaging,” she said. “We are always engaging with full diversity of that ethnic group, in that ethnic community. We definitely had participation from folks representing the LGBTQI+ community at FIU and among the Hispanic-serving institutions, so we’re always thinking about that population as part of our diversity efforts, our retention efforts, our inclusion and equity efforts with the workforce, as well as looking at our programming.” 

“It’s so crucial to have that voice,” she said. “As we are thinking about our programming … it’s important to have people with the lived experience of the populations for which you’re designing, whether they be long term development programs, short term projects, or responding to humanitarian crisis, who really understand that experience. So, we need them, we need that population as a part of our team and we also do quite a bit of programming focused on protecting the human rights, the civil rights, defending the equal rights of LGBTQI+ populations in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

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