Transgender detainees will now be held in facilities matching their gender identity, ICE immigration officials announced on Monday.
“We believe this guidance is the most comprehensive for transgender individuals in any custodial entity,” Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, the deputy assistant director for custody programs for ICE, told Fusion in a telephone interview Monday.
Some 75 transgender detainees are held by ICE on any given night.
In a disturbing piece from last year, Fusion detailed the harrowing abuse transgender detainees, particularly trans women, have faced while in ICE custody:
Trans detainees made up 1 out of 5 confirmed instances of sexual assault in immigration detention facilities. Some advocates say the reforms don’t go far enough and have pushed immigration authorities to release all transgender detainees who are awaiting immigration trials.
Advocates remain concerned because ICE has failed to follow its own policies in the past:
One of the most common critiques of immigration authorities is that they don’t follow their own policies. Another common complaint from advocates is that policy changes take years to go into effect because of the agency’s patchwork of contract facilities. Before Monday’s announcement, ICE released a set of progressive policies in their 2011 detention standards meant to protect transgender detainees.
Groups like United We Dream and GetEQUAL have been pressing the Obama Administration to release LGBTQ detainees, saying:
LGBTQ detainees are 15 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than their heterosexual, non-transgender counterparts. Most incidents of sexual assault against LGBT detainees are by fellow detainees and by guards employed by detention facilities.
Notably, the issue splashed onto the front page of the New York Times when Jennicet Gutiérrez, a transgender immigrant, interrupted President Obama during a White House LGBT Pride Ceremony.
“Last night I spoke out to demand respect and acknowledgement of our gender expression and the release of the estimated 75 transgender immigrants in detention right now,” she wrote in a Washington Blade op-ed.
“There is no pride in how LGBTQ immigrants are treated in this country and there can be no celebration with an administration that has the ability to keep us detained and in danger or release us to freedom.”
Today, members of United We Dream, GetEQUAL, Make The Road New York, and Casa Ruby are holding an action in front of the White House to call for the release of LGBTQ detainees.
“The guidelines released by ICE don’t go far enough,” said Cristina Jimenez, the managing director of United We Dream, in a statement.
“There is more that ICE can and must do to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer immigrants are safe.”