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LGBT immigrants detained in the US face higher rates of sexual assault

Lydia Smith May 31, 2018

A candlelight vigil in Chicago. (Scott Olson/Getty)

LGBT+ immigrants face higher rates of sexual assault in the US while being held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to new data.

Although LGBTQ immigrants made up just 0.14 percent of ICE detainees in the last fiscal year by the ICE, they accounted for more than 12 percent of the alleged victims of sexual assault and abuse.

The figures were given to Democrat Kathleen Rice by ICE after she requested them.

The agency received 227 reports of sexual abuse and assault, 28 of them involving an LGBT+ victim, according to the statistics.

Rice, along with dozens of other members of Congress, sent a letter to the US secretary of homeland security Kirstjen Nielsen about the issue.

“We write to express our concerns about the detention of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) immigrants in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.

“These individuals, particularly transgender women, are extremely vulnerable to abuse, including sexual assault, while in custody.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 25: Protestors demonstrate during a rally against the transgender bathroom rights repeal at Thomas Paine Plaza February 25, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Rallies are also being held across the country in support of the Affordable Health Care Act. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
(Getty)

“The high rate of sexual assault of LGBT people in immigration detention was particularly shocking.”

The letter also highlighted problems concerning the use of solitary confinement and custody decisions for transgender people.

It goes on to state that the Department of Homeland Security’s Prison Rape Elimination Act requires individualised custody for trans people.

“Yet ICE reported to Representive Rice that, as of December 2017, 4 of the 17 facilities in which transgender women were detained were all-male and the rest were a mix of male and female populations,” it reads.

“Of the 298 transgender people ICE detained in FY 2017, 13 percent were placed in solitary confinement,” the letter states. “We find this figure troubling and remain concerned about the length of time that LGBT immigrants are kept in solitary detention.”

Earlier this month, a trans woman died in US custody after travelling to the US border as part of a “refugee caravan” organised by immigration support group Pueblo Sin Fronteras, which included several trans people fleeing persecution in their home countries.

Roxana Hernández, 33, died in the custody of ICE at the Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In a statement announcing Hernández’s death, ICE said that she had been admitted to hospital on 17 May with symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration and complications associated with HIV.

The US agency said that medical staff identified the “preliminary cause of death” as cardiac arrest, but a statement by activists described Hernández’s death as “institutional murder.”

More: detained, immigration, Transgender, US, US

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