US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) has decided to make a change to the way that they house transgender people. Based on the gender the person identifies with, ICE will house them accordingly. The agency will also track transgender detainees. ICE will train detention staff and prepare individual detention plans for transgender inmates
“ICE will allow for the placement of a transgender woman consistent with their gender identity, meaning that a transgender woman could be with biological females,” said Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, who was also appointed as a national coordinator for issues related to gay, lesbian and transgender detainees.
The move did little to limit criticism from advocates who have encouraged the agency to discharge more transgender inmates, referring to the danger of sexual assault in detention. A heckler recently interfered with President Barack Obama’s comments at a gay pride event in Washington to protest the detainment and deportation of gay, lesbian and transgender immigrants.
Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, a policy adviser for the National Center for Transgender Equality thinks these people shouldn’t be in detention centers.
The Department of Justice issued similar rules for transgender inmates years ago, but many jails and detention centers still aren’t following the rules and continue to house transgender inmates based on their current physical condition or alternately put them in isolation purportedly for their security explained Carl Takei, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project.
ICE currently has about 60 transgender detainees. About 25 are housed in a special unit in Santa Ana, California, for transgender women and gay men. The rest are housed in different facilities across the country, mostly with the general population and consistent with their biological sex
The agency currently houses about 31,000 detainees a day, Lorenzen-Strait said..
“When you decide who should be urgently released, pregnant women, people with severe health problems, transgender individuals, there are certain populations that weigh so heavily in favor of release and that the automatic response is always to detain,” Morris said. “It’s not in anyone’s best interest.”
Immigration enforcement advocate Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, said she worries that gender identity could trump other factors, such as flight risk, when making decisions about detention.
“In practice, this could become a double standard for transgender individuals that seems unprecedented,” Vaughan stated