Post submitted by Courtnay C. Avant, HRC Jr. Legislative Counsel
Last week, HRC responded to a request for public comment to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights concerning the current state of immigrant detention centers and the treatment of immigrants.
More than 300,000 non-citizens are held in immigrant detention centers each year and the majority of them will end up in privately-run facilities where federal performance standards regarding their treatment are regularly disregarded without repercussions.
For LGBTQ immigrants, this lack of accountability puts their lives at risk.
LGBTQ immigrant detainees are particularly susceptible to abuse while in detention. In fact, despite making up only 0.1% of the detained immigrant population in 2017, LGBTQ detainees comprised 12% of all reported sexual assaults.
Far too often, transgender detainees are placed in units that do not correspond to their gender identity -- and they are subjected to verbal and physical abuse by other detainees and guards. This was the reality for Roxana Hernández, a Honduran transgender woman and asylum seeker who died in ICE custody on May 25, 2018. The Transgender Law Center has taken the lead on efforts to hold ICE officials responsible for the young woman’s death.
Sadly, reports of harassment and violence have led some facility operators to house LGBTQ detainees in solitary confinement for their “protection.” A recent report showed that the practice had been used on one out of every eight transgender immigrants in detention, despite regulations stating that the use of solitary confinement should be restricted. For vulnerable populations, isolation and segregation from others increases their likelihood of developing depression and engaging in self-harm.
HRC urges the Department of Homeland Security to comply with existing standards regarding the appropriate treatment of detainees -- particularly LGBTQ detainees -- and calls for additional oversight of facility operations.