Post submitted by Remington A. Gregg, former HRC Legislative Counsel

As Congress fails to make necessary changes to our nation's immigration laws, thousands of LGBT detainees are faced with uncertainty and danger. Last month, a trans woman who is being held in immigration detention was sexually assaulted by her male cellmate.  After a period of separation, Marichuy Leal Gamino is now back at the Eloy Detention Center – and still evidently detained with men.

HRC is very concerned about Marichuy’s safety.  This must be the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) overriding priority.  One way to help achieve that would be for her to be housed in facilities consistent with her gender identity.  According to the University of California Irvine’s Center for Evidence-Based Corrections, transgender women in men’s prisons are 13 times more likely to be sexually abused as other inmates.  

HRC has been in touch with the DHS about this case and the department appears to be working to address this situation.  However, to adequately protect Marichuy’s safety and to fully implement the strict requirements for protecting inmates as outlined under the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), there is still much, more to do.  For example, too many LGBT inmates are placed in “administrative segregation” or solitary confinement for their “own protection,” often leading to psychological harm and stigmatization.  Moreover, it is unclear if privately-owned prisons (contracting with the government), such as Eloy, are fully implementing PREA’s standards, which creates a two-tiered system of protection depending on whether an inmate is in a government-owned or privately-owned facility.

Of course, we could end so much suffering if Congress would pass comprehensive immigration reform.  Countless LGBT individuals are treated like criminals and detained in immigration detention centers for no other reason than seeking a better life in the United States, only to suffer even greater indignity through harassment, isolation, and assault.

HRC will continue to advocate for DHS to ensure that Marichuy remains safe, that immigration centers like Eloy are fully complying with the letter and spirit of the law, and that all LGBT inmates are treated with the dignity they deserve.

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