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A trans woman seeking asylum in the United States who has been detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for more than a year is requesting a civil rights investigation into the conditions of her confinement and prolonged detention. Her complaint describes the culture of transphobia, harassment, and medical negligence as pervasive in the Louisiana facility where she is detained. The conditions are so frightening that she has asked her gender identity be kept secret while she is detained there, leaving her vulnerable to ongoing harm.

The National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) filed the request on behalf of our client, asking the Department of Homeland Security Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) to investigate the reported abuses, and consider the violations of ICE detention standards as they relate to broader trends of abuse carried out against transgender individuals in ICE facilities across the country. Specifically, the complaint outlines the many ways in which ICE is violating the detention standards meant to ensure the safety of transgender individuals at Pine Prairie, and the harm these violations cause on a daily basis.

The Pine Prairie detention center is operated by the private prison company GEO Group. The facility’s operators are obligated to follow contract modification requirements designed to protect transgender individuals in ICE custody. However, as the complaint outlines, guards and ICE officials responsible for the care of people in ICE custody in Pine Prairie appear to regularly disregard many of the obligatory intake and ongoing care requirements, and have permitted a climate to persist that is hostile to LGBTQIA+ individuals.

In the complaint, NIJC’s client states:

“Almost all of the other detainees — including the three I share a cell with — regularly make horrible, hate-filled comments about LGBTQIA+ people. They call LGBTQIA+ people slurs … and they talk about wanting to harm and even kill LGBTQIA+ people, saying LGBTQIA+ people are like a sickness to humanity. They never say these things directly to me, but they say them loudly when I am around. It feels like they suspect something is different about me and they want me to hear their comments, like they are indirectly threatening me. The officers and other staff at the facility are around when these comments are made, but they don’t say or do anything. And if I complain to the officers or say I do not feel safe, they will put me in isolation. So I keep quiet and just try to stay away from everyone.”

NIJC condemns ICE and GEO Group’s ongoing mistreatment of our client and other LGBTQIA+ individuals who are at risk in ICE custody. We urge CRCL to immediately investigate the deficiencies outlined in this complaint, and to address the significant gaps in protection that remain in spite of ICE’s detention standards that relate specifically to transgender individuals. Further, we urge ICE to release our client who has bravely come forward to make this complaint after enduring more than a year of detention in unsafe conditions.

Jesse Franzblau is a senior policy analyst at the National Immigrant Justice Center.