HRC released a letter to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen calling on her to take action ensuring the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) addresses the alarming rate of reported sexual abuse that LGBTQ people face while in ICE detention.

LGBTQ people make up less than one percent of people in immigration detention, but account for a shocking 12 percent of the reported victims of sexual abuse and assault in ICE detention. This means that LGBTQ people are 97 times more likely to report being sexually abused in detention than non-LGBTQ people in the same conditions.

“The dangerous levels of reported sexual abuse that LGBTQ people face while in immigration detention indicate that ICE is failing to adequately prioritize their safety and well-being,” said HRC Government Affairs Director David Stacy in the letter to Secretary Nielsen. “I urge you to address these deficiencies immediately and ensure that all detainees are treated with the respect and dignity all people deserve, no matter who they are or whom they love.”

Read the full letter to Secretary Nielsen here.

Transgender detainees and detainees living with HIV are especially impacted by the poor oversight and regulations of ICE, with current policies placing transgender women in living conditions that put them at high risk of violence, and facing denial of or delayed access to necessary medical care and treatment. In particular, HRC raised concerns in a May 30 letter regarding the case of Roxsana Hernandez -- a transgender woman who died while in the custody of ICE. Hernandez petitioned for asylum after traveling as part of a caravan of migrants fleeing violence in Central America.

According to the Human Rights Watch, a 2014 National Inmate Survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics revealed that 40 percent of surveyed transgender people held in state and federal detention reported that they experienced sexual abuse, compared to 14 percent of gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals, and 3.1 percent of non-LGBT people in similar conditions.


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