LGBT immigrants are undergoing severe abuse when held in custody by the federal agency Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an immigrants' rights group charges in a complaint filed this week, the Associated Press reports.
The complaint, filed Wednesday by the Chicago-based Heartland Alliance on behalf of 13 LGBT detainees, alleges mistreatment at jails and other detention centers in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The facilities are either operated by ICE or under contract with the agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.
For instance, according to the Heartland Alliance, a facility in Santa Ana, Calif., has a policy of keeping transgender detainees in 5-by-9-foot cells 22 hours a day, with only two hours in a common room, and denying them hormone treatments. After time in the common room for one transgender prisoner was cut to just 45 minutes and the prisoner asked why, a guard said, "Because you need to learn not to be a faggot."
At the McHenry County Jail in Illinois, an HIV-positive transgender inmate said she was physically assaulted and on two separate occasions sent for two days to a basement cell where she was not fed or clothed properly, according to the complaint. She also said that during her nine months in custody, she was allowed contact only with guards, not other prisoners, as "the officers say the detainees can only talk to members of the same gender and say that I am not any gender."
Officials with the Heartland Alliance, which filed the complaint with Homeland Security's Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties and Inspector General's Office, said the problem is a systemic one, not the actions of a few abusive guards. "It has become clear that the Department of Homeland Security is incapable of ensuring safe and nonpunitive conditions for sexual minorities," Heartland Alliance executive director Mary Meg McCarthy told the AP.
ICE and Homeland Security officials said they take all allegations of abuse seriously and pledged to investigate the matter thoroughly. Read more here.