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WASHINGTON, D.C. (January 21, 2020) - A coalition of 90 human rights organizations sent a letter today to the acting directors of the Department of Homeland Security and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) demanding the release of all transgender people currently in ICE custody. This demand comes after the recent enactment of reporting language in the fiscal year 2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which states that ICE must limit the detention of transgender people to facilities subject to a contract formally modified in accordance to a 2015 ICE memo which sets out basic minimums of care for transgender people. 

The coalition of organizations call on ICE to immediately release all transgender individuals both because of ICE’s failure to comply with the 2015 memorandum and the inevitable harms immigration detention causes transgender immigrants. 

“Transgender immigrants are simply not safe in immigration detention,” states the letter. “Despite years of documented abuses against transgender migrants in custody ranging from transphobic harassment to sexual assault to medical negligence, ICE has persisted in its practice of detaining transgender individuals and failed to meet the standards of care set forward in its own 2015 directive.”

Many transgender individuals have spent months or even years in ICE custody despite having strong claims to relief and community sponsors or loved ones ready and waiting to provide them with housing and support.

“ICE is not meeting even its own standards for the care and safety of transgender people in its custody,” said NIJC senior attorney Tania Linares Garcia, who has represented dozens of transgender people detained in ICE custody. “Protracted detention and cruel practices like solitary confinement and inadequate medical care are particularly widespread among trans detained communities and can have permanent mental and physical consequences, particularly on people who have experienced emotional and physical trauma prior to detention.”

Kelly Gonzalez Aguilar is a transgender asylum seeker who has been in ICE custody for more than two years despite her eligibility for release on parole. Because of her gender identity, Kelly has experienced relentless violence and abuse since she was a child in Honduras. Her experience in ICE custody is a continuation of the abuse she fled when she sought refuge in the United States. Prior to her transfer to the Cibola Correctional Center in New Mexico, where she is currently detained, Kelly was held for months in solitary confinement solely due to her gender identity. Now having spent more than 600 days in detention, Kelly’s physical and mental well being continues to deteriorate. For Kelly and other transgender immigrants in custody, every additional day in ICE custody brings with it the risk of fresh abuses and harm.

"Trans women have been criminalized simply for who we are,” said Bamby Salcedo, founder of The TransLatin@ Coalition. “We come to this country seeking refuge fleeing from violence and death and we get further punished by being detained in immigration detention where we experience horrible treatment, violence and even death. It is time to release Trans women from immigration detention. Let us live, let us thrive out in our society!"

Read the letter here.

The letter was signed by the following organizations:

American Civil Liberties Union
ACLU of Arizona
Al Otro Lado
Alianza Americas
Alianza Nacional de Campesinas
American Friends Service Committee - Colorado
Antena Los Ángeles
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO
Brooklyn Defender Services
California Coalition for Women Prisoners
Center for American Progress
Center for Gender & Refugee Studies
Center for Victims of Torture
Centro Legal de la Raza (Oakland, CA)
Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition
Council for Global Equality
Detention Watch Network
Empowering Pacific Islander Communities (EPIC)
End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin
Entre Hermanos
Equality North Carolina
Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement
First Friends of New Jersey and New York
Free Migration Project
#FreeToo Rising
Freedom for Immigrants
Gathering Strength Project
Girls for Gender Equity
Human Rights Campaign
Immigrant Defense Project
Immigration Equality
ISLA Immigration Services & Legacy Advocacy
Just Detention International
La Resistencia
Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.
Los Angeles LGBT Center
Mid-South Immigration Advocates
Million Hoodies Movement for Justice
Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition
Move to End Violence
Mycelium Youth Network
National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF)
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Council of Asian Pacific Americans
National Council of Jewish Women
National Equality Action Team
National Immigrant Justice Center
National Immigration Law Center
National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)
National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
National Lawyers Guild
National LGBTQ Task Force
National Survivor Network
NorCal Resist
Oasis Legal Services
OCA - Asian Pacific American Advocates
Positive Women's Network-USA
Prisoners' Legal Services
Public Counsel
Queer Detainee Empowerment Project
Resonance Network
Revolve Impact
Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network
Santa Fe Dreamers Project
St. James Infirmary
Tahirih Justice Center
The Advocates for Human Rights
The Bronx Defenders
The Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project
The Southern Poverty Law Center
The Trevor Project
Trans Queer Pueblo
Transgender Law Center
TransLatin@ Coalition
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
United We Dream
UnLocal Inc.
URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity
Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
Violence Intervention Program, Inc.
Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network
Whitman-Walker Health
Women of Color Network, Inc.
Women’s Refugee Commission