It’s been one hell of a fight and we celebrate every win, large and small — after 19 long months, Chin has finally been taken out of solitary confinement!
On July 16, Chin (a/k/a Yuen Tzu, Detainee ID: 53906), a transgender man from Hong Kong, was released from solitary confinement in an ICE detention center in Irwin, Ga. Chin called us yesterday to tell us he was released from solitary confinement and relocated to an ICE detention center in Dallas. He says he shares a cell with a roommate. The appeal of his deportation is still pending.
Chin had been detained at the Irwin County Immigration Detention Center in central Georgia. Because Chin is transgender, ICE placed him in solitary confinement where he was held for 19 long months, and where he received inadequate and poor medical treatment. During that time, NQAPIA worked tirelessly for Chin, demanding that he be released from solitary confinement and that ICE cease to use solitary confinement for trans detainees.
In March, NQAPIA demanded Chin’s release and held an action in Atlanta in front of the ICE field office.
Over the past year and a half, NQAPIA has supported Chin through regular phone calls and legal advocacy. NQAPIA wrote to the ICE Atlanta Field Director, the ICE Atlanta Assistant Director, and Irwin Detention Center Supervisor, demanding Chin’s release from solitary confinement, and asking for parole and proper medical treatment. We carried out a grassroots postcard campaign through which LGBTQ API community members and allies sent Chin messages of affirmation, encouragement, and support. Previously, Chin had never met another transgender Asian person and thought he was the only one.
Sadly Chin's situation is not unique. It illustrates the situation of many trans men and women in ICE detention. ICE agents across the country declare that they “don’t know what to do with” transgender detainees. Some are held in segregated group cells, others in solitary confinement. There have been many reports of mistreatment, lack of medical services, distribution of incorrect medication and poor and inhumane conditions.
Solitary is a heightened form of punishment and has been deemed to be a form of torture in violation of human rights, yet ICE holds trans detainees in such confinement for no reason other than their transgender status. It is sometimes thought to be reserved for convicted criminals violently out of control, but certainly not as confinement for persons based on gender expression. This abuse must end.
Today, we send a message loud and clear: Thank you to all who helped get Chin out of solitary — all who signed petitions, participated in actions, wrote postcards and letters, donated to Chin's #GoFundMe, and more. The fight isn’t over, but please take a moment to celebrate this win!
Glenn D. Magpantay is the executive director of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance.