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Report documents abuse of LGBTQ+ asylum seekers in ICE custody

Incidents took place during Biden administration

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Eloy Detention Center, a privately-run ICE detention center in Eloy, Ariz. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

WASHINGTON — Human Rights First on Thursday released a report that documents the abuse of LGBTQ+ asylum seekers who entered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody after President Biden took office.

The report notes an ICE PREA (Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003) coordinator at the LaSalle ICE Processing Center in Jena, La., in October 2021 “prevented” a Transgender Mexican man “from providing his attorney a draft copy of the complaint he wished to file” after he was sexually assaulted. Several Trans asylum seekers at the same facility said guards “subjected them to transphobic verbal abuse and other mistreatment.”

“A Mexican Transgender man reported that in August 2021 a guard pointed at him and said, ‘How many of them are there? That’s not a real man.’,” reads the report. “Guards intentionally called him ‘ma’am’ and ‘girl’ and used incorrect pronouns despite his repeated attempts to correct them.”

The report notes the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s Houston Asylum Office last spring “went forward with a CFI (‘credible fear’ interview)” for a gay activist from Angola, “even though he expressed that he was suffering symptoms of COVID-19, pain from a recent physical assault, and psychological distress from conditions of confinement, resulting in a negative credible fear finding.”

“The man told the asylum officer that he was experiencing anxiety and felt claustrophobic in the ‘tight space’ where the telephonic interview was being conducted,” reads the report. “The asylum officer proceeded with the CFI during which the man was unable to disclose that he is gay because he was afraid that the officer would inform others at the detention center of his sexuality.”

“He feared that such disclosure would further endanger his life since in detention he had been threatened and harassed by people who called him homophobic slurs, according to his attorney at the Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative,” it adds.

Asylum seekers with HIV denied medication

Pablo Sánchez Gotopo, a Venezuelan man with AIDS, died in ICE custody on Oct. 1, 2021. Sánchez had been in ICE custody at the Adams County Detention Center in Natchez, Miss., before his death.

The report not only mentions Sánchez’s death, but other cases of asylum seekers with HIV/AIDS who said they suffered mistreatment while in ICE custody. One case the report cites is a Cuban asylum seeker who said he was “denied access to HIV medication” while in ICE custody at La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy, Ariz., from April-July 2021.

“Despite sending around nine requests for treatment to medical staff, he reported to his attorney at Immigration Equality that he did not receive HIV medication for at least two-and-a-half months,” reads the report.

The report also documents the prolonged detention of asylum seekers who are LGBTQ+ and/or living with HIV.

Several Trans women from Jamaica who were in ICE custody at La Palma Correctional Center and the Eloy Detention Center in Eloy, Ariz., “were subjected to months of traumatic and unnecessary detention before they received CFIs (‘credible fear’ interviews), which confirmed their fear of persecution.” The report notes ICE did not release a bisexual asylum seeker from Ghana from La Palma Correctional Center last spring until an immigration judge granted him bond, even though he passed his “credible fear” interview.

The report cites a trans asylum seeker from Honduras who the Department of Homeland Security detained at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego for two months, even though he received an exemption to Title 42 that allowed him into the U.S. last summer.

Title 42 is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention policy that closed the Southern border to most asylum seekers and migrants because of the pandemic. The Biden administration earlier this month announced it will terminate the policy on May 23.

The report notes a gay asylum seeker from Senegal did not receive his “credible fear” interview until he had been in ICE custody for three months. The report also cites the case of an LGBTQ+ person from Russia who the Department of Homeland Security detained at La Palma Correctional Center, even though he and his partner asked for asylum together at a port of entry in California.

“Under its flawed enforcement priorities, which effectively treat asylum seekers as detention priorities and do not contain exemptions for sexual orientation or gender identity, the Biden administration has detained many LGBTQ asylum seekers for months in ICE detention centers where they are particularly vulnerable to violence,” reads the report.

The report cites studies that indicates detained LGBTQ+ asylum seekers are 97 times “more likely to experience sexual assault and abuse than non-LGBTQ individuals.”

“Transgender people face a high risk of violence, discrimination and medical neglect in ICE detention, which has resulted in multiple recent deaths,” reads the report. “DHS has long recognized that detained LGBTQ people have ‘special vulnerabilities’ based on sexual orientation and gender identity and issued guidance on release of Transgender individuals. Yet despite a February 2021 memorandum committing to ‘protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and Transgender persons everywhere,’ the Biden administration continues to detain LGBTQ people, including asylum seekers who request protection at the border.”

Human Rights Report in its report makes a number of recommendations to the Biden administration, the Department of Homeland Security and Congress.

To the Biden administration:

  • End the mass jailing of asylum seekers and shift to community-based case support programs in cases where such support is needed. Community-based case support programs, which generate high appearance rates, should be used rather than “alternative to detention” programs that resort to punitive and intrusive ankle shackles and electronic surveillance or that amount to house arrest.
  • Do not designate or treat asylum seekers as priorities for detention, enforcement, or other punitive treatment. The administration and DHS should rescind the 2021 enforcement priorities memorandum and replace the policy with a protection framework that designates categories of individuals, including asylum seekers, as priorities for protection.
  • Support legislation, including the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, limiting the use of immigration detention and mandating bond redetermination hearings before an immigration judge for anyone subjected to immigration detention.
  • Work with Congress to further reduce funding for immigration detention and to instead fund: case support programs; the cost effective and successful Legal Orientation Program (LOP), which should be expanded to border shelter networks as well as all DHS facilities where asylum seekers are held, including CBP and Border Patrol facilities; and expanded legal representation for asylum seekers and other immigrants.

To the Department of Homeland Security:

  • Apply all applicable parole, bond, and other criteria with a presumption that release of asylum seekers is in the public interest, consistent with U.S. human rights and refugee treaty obligations, including the right to liberty under the ICCPR.
  • Issue parole guidance that includes a presumption that release of asylum seekers serves a significant public interest. The guidance should: apply to all asylum seekers regardless of whether they requested asylum at ports of entry or after entering the United States away from a port of entry and regardless of whether they are subjected to expedited removal; prohibit the use of bond as a condition for release on parole; and make all individuals seeking protection, including those placed in reinstated removal proceedings (which should not be used), eligible for parole consideration under the guidance.
  • Issue regulations that include a strong presumption against the use of detention, shifting the burden of proof to the government instead of the non-citizen in all custody determinations to show by clear and convincing evidence that the non-citizen should remain detained.
  • The Office of Inspector General and Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties should closely monitor and investigate allegations of abuse, improper use of force and solitary confinement, detention center conditions, medical neglect, racist treatment, disparate impact on Black asylum seekers in ICE detention facilities. These investigations must include interviews with asylum seekers, attorneys, independent medical experts, rights monitors, and relevant non-governmental actors.
  • ICE and detention facility operators should work with communities to implement Independent Medical Oversight Boards (IMOB) to increase public transparency and accountability on the delivery of quality medical and mental health care for detained individuals. The IMOB should have authority to review individual cases and medical files brought before it by detained individuals, attorneys, or advocates to ensure adequate care. IMOB members could include medical and mental health professionals, representatives of advocacy or community-based groups, and attorneys familiar with detention settings.
  • Avoid the use of the flawed and inefficient expedited removal process and instead refer asylum seekers for asylum adjudication before the USCIS Asylum Office. As Human Rights First and other NGOs have repeatedly explained, these adjudications should not take place within or rely on the expedited removal process.
  • To the extent expedited removal remains in U.S. law, DHS and the Department of Justice should issue regulations to, at a minimum, ensure access to counsel before and during credible fear interviews; provide appropriate interpretation, prohibit CFIs from being conducted in a language other than the asylum seeker’s native or best language, and permit asylum seekers to apply for asylum without a CFI if an interpreter in their native or best language is not readily available; and revise the March 2022 Interim Final Rule to preserve to the fullest extent a critical asylum office mechanism for review of erroneous negative credible fear determinations. DHS should not conduct these flawed interviews in CBP or ICE detention.

To the U.S. Congress:

  • Adopt legislation, including the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, limiting the use of immigration detention and mandating bond redetermination hearings before an immigration judge for anyone subjected to immigration detention.
  • Sharply limit funding for immigration detention to decrease its massive overuse and instead fund community-based case support programs, which should be employed only when additional measures are determined necessary to assure appearance in an individual case.
  • Support—along with state, local, and private entities—funding for universal legal representation without any carve-outs. Congress should also expand funding for LOP and improve access to counsel at immigration detention facilities, including by setting requirements for a minimum number of confidential attorney-client visitation rooms by facility capacity and guaranteeing in-person, contact visits for attorney- client meetings.
  • Conduct vigorous oversight on the administration’s compliance with laws, rules, and other authorities that authorize release of eligible asylum seekers from detention; access to counsel in detention; abuse, conditions, racist treatment, and disparate impact of detention on Black asylum seekers; continued violence, mistreatment, and unsafe placements of LGBTQ asylum seekers; unjustified and dangerous use of solitary confinement; and ICE’s failure to comply with necessary medical and mental health care to asylum seekers and immigrants in detention, as provided for by the NDS.
  • Ensure DHS complies with all legal requirements to provide data and information on the detention of asylum seekers, including reporting to Congress mandated by the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act of 1998. These reports have not been released publicly since the FY 2015 to 2017 reports were obtained through FOIA and posted by Human Rights First.

An ICE spokesperson on Friday in a statement to the Washington Blade responded to the report.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) focuses its civil immigration enforcement priorities on the apprehension and removal of noncitizens who pose a threat to our national security, public safety and border security,” said the spokesperson. “ICE takes seriously the health, safety, and welfare of those in our care, and commits to protecting their rights under the law.”

“In FY21, ICE shifted its operations away from the detention of families while adapting new and existing detention capacity to address an influx along the Southwest Border,” added the spokesperson. “ICE also previously announced it would discontinue or limit the use of certain detention facilities and will continue to monitor the quality of treatment of detained individuals, the conditions of detention, and other factors relevant to the continued operation of each facility, while assessing its operational needs for detention.” 

Federal Government

Nonbinary federal official charged with second luggage theft

They were previously charged with a felony for lifting a suitcase from baggage claim at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport on Sept. 16.

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Sam Brinton (Screenshot via YouTube KLAS-TV CBS 8 News Las Vegas)

WASHINGTON – Sam Brinton, the first openly genderfluid person appointed to a senior government post, was served with a felony arrest warrant Friday following a second incident in which they were accused of stealing luggage from an airport.

New charges accuse Brinton of grand larceny of property valued between $1,200 and $5,000, for stealing luggage from the Harry Reid International Airport. They were previously charged with a felony for lifting a suitcase from baggage claim at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport on Sept. 16.

Brinton joined the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) this year as deputy assistant secretary for spent fuel and waste disposition. The New York Post reported they were put on leave following the first incident.

The agency did not immediately return a request for comment or clarification on the status of Brinton’s employment.

On Dec. 7, a group of 16 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives including far-right GOP Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Andy Biggs (Ariz.), and Louie Gohmert (Texas), called on Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to demand Brinton’s resignation.

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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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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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$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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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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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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Federal Government

Survivor benefits for same-sex spouses expanded by the VA

VA is closing a gap in benefits for surviving spouses of LGBTQ+ Veterans. This extension of survivor benefits is effective immediately

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Photo Credit: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced a major policy change last week closing a gap in survivor benefits for certain survivors of LGBTQ+ Veterans — specifically, for those who were unable to wed until the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decisionand who, therefore, were not married to their now-deceased Veteran spouses for long enough to qualify for survivor benefits.

This extension of survivor benefits is effective immediately.

“VA is closing a gap in benefits for surviving spouses of LGBTQ+ Veterans, righting a wrong that is a legacy of the discriminatory federal ban on same-sex marriages,” said VA Secretary Denis McDonough. “It is VA’s mission to serve all Veterans – including LGTBQ+ Veterans – as well as they’ve served our country, and this decision is a key part of that effort.”

Due to bans on same-sex marriages, many LGBTQ+ Veterans were unable to get married until Obergefell v. Hodges (6/26/2015) despite being in “marriage-type” relationships long before that.

According to a statement from the VA this wrongly precluded many survivors of those LGBTQ+ Veterans from becoming eligible for survivor benefits because their Veteran spouse died before the marriage met VA’s length-of-marriage requirements (one-year for survivor benefits, eight-years for a higher rate of benefits).

This decision addresses that problem by counting the duration of marriage from when the surviving spouse can establish a “marriage-type” relationship — such as a commitment ceremony, joint banking account, or joint purchase of a house. Importantly, these benefits are not retroactive.

The VA also noted in its statement that it is committed to delivering world-class care and benefits to LGBTQ+ Veterans. As a part of this effort, last year, VA began providing benefits to Veterans who were given “Other Than Honorable” discharges due to their sexual orientation.

Eligible survivors can apply for these benefits here, and more information about this announcement can be found here.

LGBTQ+ Veterans can learn more about VA’s current health offerings on the LGBTQ+ Health Program website.  

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Federal Government

Health care orgs ask Feds investigate trans healthcare threats

The groups also call on Twitter, TikTok and Meta-Facebook and Instagram, to do more to prevent coordinated campaigns of disinformation

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Robert F. Kennedy U.S. Dept. of Justice Building, Washington D.C. (Photo Credit: GSA/DoJ)

CHICAGO – In a letter sent Monday to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, the American Medical Association joined with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and Children’s Hospital Association asking the Department of Justice investigate [the] increasing “threats of violence against physicians, hospitals and families of children for providing and seeking evidence-based gender-affirming care.”

The AAP and AMA collectively represent more than 270,000 physicians and medical students and CHA represents more than 220 children’s hospitals across the country. The groups wrote to Garland urging “swift action to investigate and prosecute all organizations, individuals, and entities responsible.”

The AMA letter highlighted one instance where a mother was prevented from seeing her newborn premature infant because the NICU was locked down due to a bomb threat. These attacks on children’s hospitals have effects on so many people who aren’t even involved in gender affirming care.

Attacks on American hospitals providing trans healthcare, especially those with clinics treating trans youth have been targeted by anti-Trans extremists led by the Daily Wire’s Matt Walsh and Brooklyn, New York-based Chaya Raichik, a former real estate agent whose ‘Libs of Tik-Tok’ have spread misinformation and lies about gender-affirming surgery which has fostered attacks on those healthcare facilities by far-right extremist elements.

“Whether it’s newborns receiving intensive care, children getting cancer treatments or families accessing compassionate care for their transgender adolescents, all patients seeking treatment deserve to get the care they need without fear for their personal safety,” wrote AAP President Moira Szilagyi, MD, PhD, FAAP. “We cannot stand by as threats of violence against our members and their patients proliferate with little consequence. We call on the Department of Justice to investigate these attacks and social media platforms to reduce the spread of the misinformation enabling them.”

In addition to the letter to the Department of Justice, the groups call on Twitter, TikTok and Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, to do more to prevent coordinated campaigns of disinformation. The organizations ask the platforms to take bolder action when false information is shared about specific institutions and physicians. They also urge social media companies to enforce safety and hateful conduct policies to stop the endangerment of patients, families, physicians and health care staff.

“The medical organizations have raised an alarm because this is a safety issue, not a political issue. No one should be allowed to encourage violence against medical providers or anyone else,” Shannon Minter, the Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, (NCLR) told the Blade in an emailed statement.

Raichik who has been suspended from Facebook and also Twitter for inflammatory lies and propaganda about Trans youth healthcare, pledged to redouble her attacks on hospitals providing trans people with health care, she wrote in a rant on her Substack in which she called gender-affirming care “mutilating the body.” 

Libs of TikTok has reportedly been suspended multiple times on multiple platforms, including InstagramFacebook, and Twitter. Raichik’s last Twitter suspension came for accusing LGBTQ people of “grooming” children, which Twitter confirmed violates its policies against hateful conduct.

Today as her latest suspension was lifted by Twitter, Raichik attacked the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Maine as documented on Twitter by Alejandra Caraballo, Clinical Instructor at Harvard Law School’s Cyberlaw Clinic.

Just this past week, inspired by the Daily Wire’s Walsh, Tennessee lawmakers and Governor Bill Lee who provided Walsh with a statement, sent a letter Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Pediatric Transgender Clinic demanding gender-affirming surgeries cease.

“We are committed to providing safe, supportive and inclusive health care environments for each and every child and family, and the clinicians and staff who are dedicated to caring for children,” said CHA President Amy Wimpey Knight. “Threats and acts of violence are not a solution, nor a substitute, for civil dialogue about issues of a child or teen’s health and wellbeing. At CHA, we are committed to working across sectors to prevent misleading and inflammatory comments that result in threats to those caring for patients.”

The groups wrote in their letter to Attorney General Garland, “Our organizations are dedicated to the health and well-being of all children and adolescents. We are committed to the full spectrum of patient care—from prevention to critical care. We stand with the physicians, nurses, mental health specialists, and other health care professionals who provide evidence-based health care, including gender-affirming care, to children and adolescents.”

Two months ago anti-LGBTQ+ far right extremists targeted Boston Children’s Hospital, threatening its employees and medical staff after falsehoods and disinformation was spread online about the healthcare facility’s treatment of transgender youth by Libs of Tik-Tok, Walsh, and conservative journalist and anti-LGBTQ+ activist Christopher Rufo.

The United States Department of Justice launched an investigation into the Boston Children’s threats according to an announcement by the United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Rachael Rollins.

Last month D.C.’s Children’s National Hospital became the target of threatening phone calls, email messages and social media postings after Libs of Tiktok posted an incorrect report claiming the hospital routinely performs hysterectomies on transgender patients under the age of 18.

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Federal Government

Derogatory racial slur removed from federal geographic names use

The term has been used throughout history as an offensive ethnic and sexist term, particularly against Indigenous and Native women

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U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland (Photo Credit: U.S. Department of the Interior)

WASHINGTON – The Department of the Interior today announced the Board on Geographic Names (BGN) has voted on the final replacement names for nearly 650 geographic features featuring the word squaw, bringing an end to hundreds of years of the offensive term being used in an official capacity.

The term has been used throughout history as an offensive ethnic and sexist term, particularly against Indigenous and Native women.

“I feel a deep obligation to use my platform to ensure that our public lands and waters are accessible and welcoming. That starts with removing racist and derogatory names that have graced federal locations for far too long,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, who is the nation’s first Native American to serve as a presidential cabinet secretary.

“I am grateful to the members of the Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force and the Board on Geographic Names for their efforts to prioritize this important work. Together, we are showing why representation matters and charting a path for an inclusive America,” she added.

The effort to wipe the offensive term from both the federal and public lexicon has been an ongoing battle for generations, but has gained steam after Secretary Haaland established a task force to review and replace the term and ordered the federal body responsible for naming geographic places to no longer use it.

During the public comment period, the Task Force received more than 1,000 recommendations for name changes. Nearly 70 Tribal governments participated in nation-to-nation consultation, which yielded another several hundred recommendations. While the new names are immediately effective for federal use, the public may continue to propose name changes for any features — including those announced today — through the regular BGN process.

While the Secretary’s order for the Task Force considered only the squaw derogatory term in its scope. Haaland’s Order 3405 created a Federal Advisory Committee for the Interior Department to formally receive advice from the public regarding additional derogatory terms, derogatory terms on federal land units, and the process for derogatory name reconciliation. Next steps on the status of that Committee will be announced in the coming weeks.

The task force, comprised of representatives from the Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, National Park Service, Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Civil Rights, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, and the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Agriculture’s U.S. Forest Service, had to evaluate inconsistent spelling of Native languages and evaluate the diverse array of opinions of those making recommendations.

Ultimately, nearly 650 geographic sites, including the 80 in California, were renamed.

The California landmarks that will be renamed are below:

New NamePrevious NameFeature ClassCounty or EquivalentState
Habematolel ValleyBig Squaw ValleyValleyLake CountyCalifornia
East Fork Sulanharas CreekEast Fork Squaw CreekStreamShasta CountyCalifornia
North Fork Waydalmem CreekNorth Fork Squaw CreekStreamShasta CountyCalifornia
South Fork Waydalmem CreekSouth Fork Squaw CreekStreamShasta CountyCalifornia
Ehluyeh CanyonSquaw CanyonValleyPlumas CountyCalifornia
Spruce Grove CreekSquaw CreekStreamHumboldt CountyCalifornia
K’ ohuy CahSquaw CreekStreamMendocino CountyCalifornia
Log ValleyLittle Squaw ValleyBasinLake CountyCalifornia
Bald CreekSquaw CreekStreamShasta CountyCalifornia
Washeshu CreekSquaw CreekStreamPlacer CountyCalifornia
Waydalmem CreekSquaw CreekStreamShasta CountyCalifornia
Telegraph CreekSquaw CreekStreamHumboldt CountyCalifornia
Lolsel CreekSquaw CreekStreamColusa CountyCalifornia
Grasshopper CreekSquaw CreekStreamHumboldt CountyCalifornia
Tip Top Ridge CreekSquaw CreekStreamHumboldt CountyCalifornia
Mayacmas CreekSquaw CreekStreamSonoma CountyCalifornia
Papakum Pakan FlatSquaw FlatFlatPlacer CountyCalifornia
Yét Atwam FlatSquaw FlatFlatShasta CountyCalifornia
Grasshopper Creek RidgeSquaw Creek RidgeRidgeHumboldt CountyCalifornia
Sawabü FlatSquaw FlatFlatInyo CountyCalifornia
Gates OpeningSquaw OpeningFlatMendocino CountyCalifornia
Logan FlatSquaw FlatFlatGlenn CountyCalifornia
Table HollowSquaw HollowValleyTehama CountyCalifornia
Milk PeakSquaw PeakSummitModoc CountyCalifornia
Mudoim PeakSquaw PeakSummitPlumas CountyCalifornia
Pieta Rock SlideSquaw Rock SlideSlopeMendocino CountyCalifornia
Yét Atwam CreekSquaw Valley CreekStreamShasta County, Siskiyou CountyCalifornia
Olympic ValleySquaw ValleyValleyPlacer CountyCalifornia
Oso Kum SpringSquaw Valley SpringSpringPlumas CountyCalifornia
Habematolel CreekSquaw Valley CreekStreamLake CountyCalifornia
Delunga PeakSquaw Valley PeakSummitPlumas CountyCalifornia
Om Chatim SpringsSquaw Valley Peak SpringsSpringPlumas CountyCalifornia
West Fork Sulanharas CreekWest Fork Squaw CreekStreamShasta CountyCalifornia
Mat Kwa’rar NemaawSquaw CanyonValleySan Diego CountyCalifornia
Bull Spring MountainSquaw MountainSummitSan Bernardino CountyCalifornia
Tenaja MountainSquaw MountainSummitRiverside CountyCalifornia
Xanyō XamshréSquaw LakeLakeImperial CountyCalifornia
Mat Puy Nah AchhuukaaypSquaw PeakSummitSan Diego CountyCalifornia
Ho’toy PeakSquaw PeakSummitMonterey CountyCalifornia
Needle SpringSquaw SpringSpringInyo CountyCalifornia
Mohave PeakSquaw TitSummitSan Bernardino CountyCalifornia
Arch PeakSquaw PeakSummitSan Bernardino CountyCalifornia
S’ o”” Kuku CreekSquaw CreekStreamVentura CountyCalifornia
Yokuts BasinSquaw ValleyBasinFresno CountyCalifornia
East Fork North Fork Sulanharas CreekEast Fork North Fork Squaw CreekStreamShasta CountyCalifornia
Paac Kü̱vü̱hü̱’kSquaw TankReservoirRiverside CountyCalifornia
Tubbe Paa LakeOld Squaw LakeLakeFresno CountyCalifornia
Sulanharas CreekSquaw CreekStreamShasta CountyCalifornia
North Fork Sulanharas CreekNorth Fork Squaw CreekStreamShasta CountyCalifornia
Uti FlatSquaw FlatFlatPlacer CountyCalifornia
Sulanharas Creek ArmSquaw Creek ArmBayShasta CountyCalifornia
Whichwo CreekSquaw CreekStreamTrinity CountyCalifornia
Mani’pa GulchSquaw GulchValleyPlacer CountyCalifornia
Oak HollowSquaw HollowValleyCalaveras County, Tuolumne CountyCalifornia
Kapa HollowSquaw HollowValleyEl Dorado CountyCalifornia
Deer Lick FlatSquaw FlatFlatTrinity CountyCalifornia
Stoveleg GulchSquaw GulchValleyTrinity CountyCalifornia
Hunchup CreekSquaw Hollow CreekStreamEl Dorado CountyCalifornia
Nüümü Hu HupiSquaw LakeLakeFresno CountyCalifornia
Deer Hollow CreekSquaw Hollow CreekStreamTehama CountyCalifornia
San Joaquin ButteSquaw LeapCliffFresno CountyCalifornia
Mo Bisipi CreekSquaw Queen CreekStreamPlumas CountyCalifornia
Washeshu PeakSquaw PeakSummitPlacer CountyCalifornia
Damalusung LakeSquaw LakeLakeSierra CountyCalifornia
Tamarack PeakSquaw PeakSummitSiskiyou CountyCalifornia
Corral ValleySquaw ValleyValleyLassen CountyCalifornia
Kahus FlatSquaw FlatFlatVentura CountyCalifornia
Saputiwah SpringSquaw SpringSpringVentura CountyCalifornia
Scratch CreekSquaw CreekStreamTulare CountyCalifornia
Hukaht CanyonSquaw CanyonValleyLos Angeles CountyCalifornia
Inman RockSquaw RockSummitMendocino CountyCalifornia
Beyem Seyo ValleySquaw ValleyValleyPlumas CountyCalifornia
Leaning Pine HillSquaw HillSummitMariposa CountyCalifornia
Mat Kwa’KurrSquaw TitSummitSan Diego CountyCalifornia
Frog Woman RockSquaw RockSummitMendocino CountyCalifornia
Panther PrairieSquaw PrairieAreaHumboldt CountyCalifornia
Pkwo’-o-lo’ ‘ue-merkwSquaw TitSummitHumboldt CountyCalifornia
MúmawetSquaw HillSummitRiverside CountyCalifornia
Hayfork SpringSquaw Camp SpringSpringTrinity CountyCalifornia
Ehluyeh Canyon SpringsSquaw Canyon SpringsSpringPlumas CountyCalifornia

For a complete list of geographic sites across the country that will be renamed, click here. A map of the sites can be found here.

 

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