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Friday, April 15, 2011

Complaint alleges abuse of LGBT detainees in ICE lockups

A complaint filed yesterday by the National Immigrant Justice Center with the Department of Homeland Security alleges serious rights violations of LGBT immigrants being held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention. The complaints span several facilities, including private prisons and local jails that contract to hold those being considered for deportation. The complaints span from verbal abuse, to excessive force, to sexual assault by fellow detainees and prison officers. Some examples:

  • Steve, an undocumented immigrant housed in a Corrections Corporation of America facility in Texas while he appeals a denial of asylum, says that once he revealed he was gay, CCA officers tormented him regularly. He says officers refused to unshackle him during a blood test, resulting in doctors having to painfully extract blood from his hand. He also says officers routinely denied him access to HIV medication and put him in administrative segregation for no articulated reason.
  • Alexis, housed in two different Orange County jails that contract with ICE, says LGBT inmates are placed on 22-hour lockdown “for their own protection” and have been denied things like toilet paper and undergarments. Alexis, a transgender women, also says jail staff regularly strip-search inmates after visits with their lawyers and deny transgender detainees access to hormone therapy on which their bodies have become dependent.
According to the complaint, these and other examples of abuse are not isolated incidents, but systemic mistreatment of LGBT detainees–who’ve been incarcerated either because they’re in the country illegally or have committed a deportable crime.
ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice told the Orange County Register that the agency is taking the complaints seriously:
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) takes any allegations of mistreatment or abuse very seriously,” Kice said in a written statement. “ICE remains firmly committed to ensuring the health and welfare of all those in our custody and to providing the highest quality medical and mental healthcare available.”
Assistant Sheriff Mike James said in a written statement that he received a copy of the complaints Wednesday night but had not received any other complaints about the issue.
“We will be doing a complete and thorough investigation of the allegations in the complaints to determine if there is any validity to them. If we determine there is, we will take swift and immediate action,” he stated. “We will do this investigation in conjunction with ICE.”
The Register also reports that while ICE has said they plan on moving away from using local jails for immigration detainees–which have come under criticism for mistreatment of detainees–they recently contracted for 800 beds in Orange County facilities.


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