Advocates Condemn Detaining Trans Women at Adelanto Detention Facility

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Friday August 28, 2015

On August 24, over 100 national and local LGBTQ, immigrant, and civil rights organizations urged President Obama to stop Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from considering the Adelanto Detention Facility as a center to detain transgender immigrants.

"Transferring transgender women to the Adelanto Detention Facility, where countless violations and failures to protect vulnerable populations have been documented and reported, is not only dangerous but inhumane. Rather than finding safety in the US, Transgender people continue to be misgendered during detention placements, denied transition-related care, and humiliated for being trans. Detention is not safe for LGBTQ Immigrants," stated Myra Llerenas, Southern New Mexico Field Organizer for Equality New Mexico.

The Adelanto Detention Facility in Southern California is geographically remote and poorly suited for transgender immigrants. The facility is in the Mojave Desert of Southern California, which is a four-hour round-trip from Los Angeles. Placing transgender immigrants in the facility would effectively prevent any independent oversight by advocates and would severely limit transgender immigrants' access to attorneys.

"ICE must take responsibility for the safety, well-being, and fundamental due process rights of the people caught up in its national detention system. Transferring transgender women to Adelanto would make a mockery of this responsibility," said Kathy Doan, Executive Director of the Capital Area Immigrants Rights' (CAIR) Coalition.

On August 13, 2014, LGBTQ advocates toured the Adelanto Detention Facility and spoke to individuals detained there. "We met a woman from Guatemala who had been placed in the men's housing unit. The government did not even seem to know she was there," said Aaron C. Morris, Legal Director of Immigration Equality.

"No one should fear for their life or personal safety in our corrections system," said Ellie Perez, member of the Equality Arizona Board of Directors. "LGBTQ people in detention are disproportionately at risk of violence and mistreatment. Equality Arizona is proud to stand by a wide range of diverse organizations from all over our country calling on President Obama to ensure ICE cannot place transgender women in isolated facilities where they are at great risk."

Like pregnant women and minor children, LGBTQ individuals are some of the most vulnerable populations in detention. ICE should not place such at-risk groups in isolated facilities. The risk that they will be mistreated is too great. If the government cannot detain LGBTQ immigrants safely, it should not detain them at all. Instead, it should utilize alternatives to detention programs, which are a more humane, inexpensive, and effective solution.

"It's time for the federal government to update its detention practices in terms of practicality, safety and assuring basic human dignity. Respect for human rights is a given, we don't need a Congressional vote to do what's humane and right for those in the immigration detention system especially in regard to trans individuals whom likely qualify for asylum," stated Ari Gutierrez, co-founder and Advisory Board Chair of the Latino Equality Alliance, an LGBT advocacy group based in Los Angeles.

"Transgender women who have fled persecution and have come to the US to seek a safe haven should not be retraumatized by being imprisoned in inhumane conditions," said Azadeh Shahshahani, President of the National Lawyers Guild. "Rather, they should have the right to seek asylum while being afforded respect for their human dignity."

Since 1994, Immigration Equality has been representing LGBT and HIV-positive asylum seekers, detainees, and binational couples, who are fighting for safety, fair treatment, and freedom. Immigration Equality represents people from around the world fleeing violence, abuse and persecution because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV status. Our team of legal experts has won asylum for more than 700 LGBT and HIV-positive individuals.

Read the full letter here:

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.