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The Plight of an Asian Trans Man in Georgia Embodies ICE's Cruelty

CHIN

Imagine being locked up in a small room with no one to talk with because of your sexual identity. Many Americans think of torturous incarceration as something that occurs only in developing countries but it’s happening right here, to our trans and gender-nonconforming community members, by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Chin (a.k.a. Yuen Tsui, Detainee ID: 53906) is a transgender man from Hong Kong detained at the Irwin County Immigration Detention Center in rural Georgia. Because Chin is transgender, ICE claims it doesn’t know what to do with him and placed him in solitary confinement, where he has been for over 15 months. 

Chin has also been denied proper medical care in regard to his identity. At times he has been given the wrong dosage of medically necessitated testosterone, at incorrect intervals, or even denied it completely. One time he was given a bottle of medication that was not even his. 

Over the past year, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance has supported Chin through legal advocacy, and a grassroots postcard campaign calling for his release, and most importantly staying in touch with phone calls. LGBTQ Asian Pacific Islander community members have been sending Chin letters with messages of affirmation, encouragement, and support. Until he came to the United States he had never met another transgender Asian person. He thought he was the only one.

When NQAPIA complained to the ICE field director and detention center supervisor for Chin’s release from solitary confinement, for parole, and for proper medical treatment, they never responded. We escalated. 

We held an action at the ICE Regional Office in Atlanta, demanding Chin’s release and fair treatment. We were joined by Southerners on New Ground, the Black LGBTQIA+ Migrant Project at Transgender Law Center, South Asian Americans Leading Together, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice. 

At the action we heard Chin’s story from his sister Nancy and father, Eddie (speaking in Chinese through a translator). NowThisPolitics ran our live feed. We were interviewed by CNN and NBC News. The Chinese-language newspaper World Journal ran a large front-page article educating over 10,000 Chinese readers in Georgia and Florida.  

We demanded that ICE free Chin and remove him from solitary confinement. Terminate the use of solitary confinement for transgender detainees. Ensure that Chin receives proper medical care. Release Chin to his LGBTQ API community on parole.  

There should be alternatives to detention. Asian-Americans are the nation’s fastest growing minority group and the largest segment of immigrants coming to the United States. ICE has targeted countless Asian-Americans for detention and deportation. The Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that an estimated 637,000 of the immigrant population is LGBT. Of them, one in three LGBT immigrants are Asian or Pacific Islander; LGBT Asian immigrants have a lot at stake. 

Chin’s situation is inhumane. Solitary confinement is a heightened form of punishment, a form of torture in violation of human rights. It is an example of the dire situation of transgender people in immigration detention and reveals how Asian-Americans are also caught up in Trump’s overly aggressive immigration enforcement.

Join the campaign to Free Chin. No human being should ever be mistreated this way. Learn more below.

Khudai Tanveer is an organizer for the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA).

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