Transgender illegal immigrant women are about to get the most massive government handout. Are you happy about this? Give us your thoughts below.
U.S. immigration officials are opening a new detention facility in Texas that will include a unit specifically created for transgender individuals, Fusion has confirmed.
“The facility is expected to house about 700 detainees, including a separate 36-bed unit for transgender individuals,” said Carl Rusnok, a spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE.)
ICE says the Prairieland Detention Center will open in November in Alvarado, Texas, and will operate with the agency’s most advanced care guidelines for transgender detainees. Each detainee will have an individualized detention plan “covering items such as searches, clothing options, hygiene practices, medical care, and housing assignments,” Rusnok said.
Immigrant rights advocates have urged ICE to release LGBT detainees, especially transgender women, because they are more vulnerable to physical and sexual assaults while in custody. The new facility addresses a number of issues to better protect trans women, but immigrant rights leaders say any new detention center is a step in the wrong direction. The advocates want ICE to instead work more closely with community groups that could house trans women.
“[ICE] is talking about the new detention center as if they are providing as a service to the community, and they’re not,” said Isa Noyola, the director of programs at the San Francisco-based Transgender Law Center.
ICE officials estimate that there are approximately 65 transgender women in their custody on any given night.
The new facility will be operated and managed by Emerald Correctional Management, a private prison corporation that acknowledges on its website it is “ not the biggest” company in the private prison industry. The company, which manages a total of six facilities, distinguishes itself by saying it doesn’t “warehouse detainees” and that it’s changing the culture of privatization.
A Fusion investigation found that although only about 1 in 500 detainees are transgender, 1 in 5 victims of confirmed sexual assault in immigration detention were transgender in recent years. Many of the transgender individuals in detention are women who presented themselves as U.S. ports of entry to request asylum—women who have never committed a crime—and are detained until a judge can decide on their cases.
“These [detention] beds come with violence and unwarranted transphobic interactions with line staff and other folks in the facility,” Noyola said in a telephone interview with Fusion on Sunday.
A year ago in June 2015, 35 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson urging him to end the detention of LGBT undocumented immigrants.