Complaints filed this week show that some LGBT detainees who are refugees, asylum seekers or undocumented are being subjected to inhuman, degrading and in some cases life-threatening treatment.
Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) has filed four more complaints with the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL), taking it to 17 filed since April.
All of these individuals are seeking protection from persecution in their native countries.
In one new case, a detainee was denied HIV treatment, which can be life-threatening.
Alexis* was detained at Boone County Jail, Kentucky, for two weeks in September then moved to Tri-County Detention Center, Illinois, where he remains. He immediately informed nurses that he was HIV+ and that he believed he had herpes. He has been seen by one doctor but in a public setting where it was unsafe to discuss his HIV status and a private exam was refused. He has still not been given HIV medication despite repeated requests to nurses and at Boone he was denied toothpaste, a toothbrush and soap for a fortnight.
Another new complaint tells of a transgender individual who was arbitrarily held in solitary confinement for 49 days.
The 13 complaints filed in April by NIJC detail instances of rape, sexual violence, misuse of segregation and punitive conditions in solitary confinement, denial of HIV treatment and hormone therapy, as well as pervasive discrimination and humiliation by guards on account of individuals’ sexual orientation and gender identity.
“These latest reports highlight that abuse of vulnerable populations remains a systemic, pervasive problem in the immigration detention system,” said NIJC Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy.
“It is unlawful for the U.S. government to detain individuals that it cannot protect.”
One transgender woman detained in California was abused and singled out for public searches where guards forced her to remove her outer clothing and mocked her exposed breasts.
Both transgender and lesbian or gay people in immigration detention are often segregated and kept in cells for 22 hours per day. They have far less access to recreation compared with the general detainee population. When this transgender woman asked why she could have recreation access for only a couple of hours she was abused by a guard, told it was to “teach her not to be transgender.” When she asked for toilet paper she was abused.
Transferred to a jail, she suffered further mistreatment and discrimination, including denial of access to a doctor.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released government documents this week containing 185 allegations of sexual abuse against female immigration detainees in federal detention centers since 2007.
Many of these women are refugees fleeing persecution including torture and rape.
ACLU has provided detailed narratives by three women describing sexual assaults by guards whilst they were being transported in prison vans.
Human Rights Watch released a report last August that documented sex crimes committed in detention centers across eight states.
Since 9/11, the detainee population has increased from 7,500 people per day in 1995 to approximately 33,000 per day in 2010. With few dedicated immigration detention centers available to house the growing number of detainees, authorities began renting out beds in a variety of facilities primarily used for housing criminal convicts under very restrictive conditions.
Often these facilities are in remote areas, restricting access to legal help. The intermingling and eventual conflation of civil and criminal detainees pushed immigration detention towards the highly punitive model prevalent today. Today nearly 400,000 undocumented immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers are detained every year.
Picture by lewishamdreamer