LGBTQ immigrants say that they are being mistreated in Immigration centers.
According to the Washington Post, gay and transgender people held at a detention center in New Mexico are being physically and verbally abused by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.
This revelation was made after several civil rights groups sent a complaint to the U.S. agency on Monday, March 25. These civil rights groups speaking on the behalf of 12 gay and transgender detainees at the Otero County Processing Center are from the American Civil Liberties Union, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center and the Santa Fe Dreamers Project.
The letter states that these 12 individuals suffered sexual harassment and abuse from other detainees. In addition, the guards allegedly assaulted them verbally, interrupted showers by offering to help transgender women bathe, and denied hormone therapy. That latter action directly goes against ICE’s own regulations. Then, anyone who complained was allegedly reassigned to barracks with heterosexual men as a form of retaliation.
Below, you can find the demands found in the letter:
“We write to ask for a meeting with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) and Warden Orozco to speak about our grave concerns about the conditions in which ICE is confining gay men and transgender women in the Otero County Processing Center.”
“We also ask that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) Office of Inspector General, the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and the ICE Prevention of Sexual Assault Coordinator immediately investigate the conditions we outline in this letter.”
“We request a response to this letter by 5 PM this Friday, March 29, 2019, with specific information detailing when ICE and Warden Orozco will meet with us to discuss these conditions and when DHS will investigate them.”
Speaking to the Washington Post, one of the detainees, an anonymous 21-year-old Honduran who identifies as gay, spoke on his experience. He says, while being detained at Otero, he was sexually harassed multiple times by other detainees.
While the man was later released on bond, he shares that his days in the facility were awful because he was deterred from reporting his attackers.
“I asked for a change of barracks, but I was afraid to write specifically what was happening to me because I had already been warned that if I made another complaint, I’d be sent to solitary,” said the man.
“This is not a new problem. Sadly, from our conversations with the detainees in Otero, we’ve learned that this level of unlawful abuse, mistreatment and harassment is more widespread and common than we had imagined,” said Nicolas Palazzo, an attorney for Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso.
According to NBC News, ICE has yet to respond to the statement. That said, a spokesperson for Management & Training Corporation, the private company that operates Otero denied the claims. The company says that it follows ICE’s transgender detainee guidelines and “is not aware of any incidents at the facility that even come close to these allegations.”
“And any implication that management was aware of any harassment or discrimination against transgender individuals or any other individuals is not true,” the statement says. “We have no evidence of rampant sexual harassment, discrimination, abuse, denying proper medical care to transgender detainees, and no evidence of retaliation and improper use of solitary confinement.”
The company then shared that they will work with Ice to evaluate the claims.