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Secret memo reveals trans woman bleeding from rectum was ignored for 13 days while jailed by ICE

Emma Powys Maurice March 7, 2020
ICE is being sued for detaining trans migrants in coronavirus 'death traps'

A woman is held at an ICE detention centre in Phoenix, Arizona. (John Moore/Getty)

A leaked memo from Homeland Security has revealed that an HIV-positive trans woman in ICE detention was left bleeding from her rectum for 13 days.

It was not determined that the woman was HIV positive until she was finally given medical care almost two weeks after she began bleeding.

The shocking incident was detailed in a secret email from a top Homeland Security official to ICE leadership, obtained by Buzzfeed News, which exposes the appalling negligence of Cibola County Correctional Centre in New Mexico.

The remote facility is the only detention centre dedicated to housing transgender immigrants and was already under intense scrutiny after a federal inspection last year found hundreds of unanswered requests for medical attention.

The August 21 email warned: “The negligence of addressing a medical emergency such as this not only placed the infected detainee at risk for severe medical complications, but it also exposed other detainees and facility and ICE staff to an infectious and potentially deadly disease.”

The email revealed how immigrants sometimes waited up to 17 days for urgently needed medical care, were exposed to poor sanitation and quarantine practices during a chickenpox and mumps outbreak, and didn’t get medications as directed by a doctor for illnesses such as diabetes, epilepsy, and tuberculosis.

The advisers also said they saw immigrants in the transgender unit housed in an area that was not “appropriately cleaned and sanitised,” potentially contributing to the spread of infectious diseases.

The urgent email clearly stated “the seriousness of the concerns raised”, but ICE officials waited roughly five months to move people from the facility.

All detainees were eventually transferred to other facilities in January. About half of the two dozen transgender detainees were sent to a facility Aurora, Colorado, and the others to one in Tacoma, Washington.

LGBT+ ICE detainees have inadequate healthcare
A protest outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) building in Portland, Oregon. (Alex Milan Tracy/Anadolu Agency/Getty)

In a statement to BuzzFeed News, ICE spokesperson April Grant said the agency “is committed to ensuring that those in our custody reside in secure, humane environments and under appropriate conditions of confinement.

“The agency takes very seriously the health, safety and welfare of those in our care, including those who come into ICE custody with prior medical conditions or who have never before received appropriate medical care.”

Transgender immigrants speak out

Several transgender detainees have complained of the “appalling” standards of care in ICE detention centres, noting the repeated denial of medical care.

Last year activists, attorneys and NGOs had to launch a sustained advocacy campaign in order to save Alejandra Barrera, a trans woman who fled violence in El Salvador.

During her detention she was refused treatment for a progressive medical condition, which if left untreated could have permanently affected her cognitive abilities and could caused severe complications or death.

She was finally freed after 20 months of detainment, the longest ever for a trans woman at the facility. Activists claim her experience is representative of the widespread mistreatment of all trans women in ICE custody.

In September 14 human rights groups filed a complaint calling for ICE to release all LGBT+ migrants from custody because they say it cannot provide adequate healthcare.

 

 

 

More: Detention centre, HIV/AIDS, homeland security, ice, immigration

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