Transgender Protections Revisions in Immigration Detention

PREA rules and other reforms still needed

The National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) welcomes the release of revised standards for immigration detention from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. These new standards are an important step forward in the treatment of transgender people in detention facilities. However questions remain about how and when the standards will be implemented, and about ICE’s commitment to implementing a law to prevent sexual abuse, and moving away from a prison-like detention model.

ICE’s new detention standards incorporate for the first time key principles for protecting the health and safety of transgender detainees. These principles include making housing decisions on an individual basis that looks to protect the individuals rather than focusing on their sexual anatomy – a change that should permit transgender women to be more frequently housed in women’s facilities. The new standards also require that all transgender people have access to hormone therapy and other necessary medical care.

“These new standards, if fully implemented have the potential to create meaningful improvements in detention conditions,” said Harper Jean Tobin, NCTE Policy Counsel. “That can only happen if they are fully implemented and facilities that contract with ICE face real consequences for noncompliance. And, reform cannot stop there. The new standards are still based on a prison model where individuals lack privacy, dignity, and freedom of movement.”

NCTE has worked with a broad and diverse coalition of human rights groups to advocate for improvement in the often harsh conditions for detained immigrants, including many who came to the U.S. fleeing persecution because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

These improvements, consistent with the Administration’s call to overhaul the immigration detention system, marks significant progress but does not fully address the concerns facing transgender immigrant detainees. The standards are also not an adequate substitute for applying the forthcoming rules to implement the Prison Rape Elimination Act, which comprehensively address the prevention of sexual abuse, to all immigration detention facilities.

NCTE calls on ICE to undertake the following, lifesaving changes:

  • Work swiftly to fully apply the new standards to all facilities and impose strong sanctions for noncompliance;
  • Fully adopt and abide by forthcoming national rules to implement the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003; and,
  • Develop and implement new, binding standards for civil confinement that are not based on a correctional model.

NCTE will continue to advocate with ICE and other relevant government agencies to enforce these new standards, make them even stronger, and making sure the forthcoming Prison Rape Elimination Standards are applied to immigration detention centers.

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Greg Jeu

Greg Jeu is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of OutSmart Magazine.

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