Complaint alleges LGBT immigrants abused while in U.S. custody


The Heartland Alliance National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) on Wednesday filed 13 complaints alleging human rights abuses against LGBT immigrants recently and currently held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centers.

According to the NIJC, the individuals who filed complaints all came to the United States to escape persecution in their native countries, and have since faced continued abuse in the immigration system.

The NIJC is asking the Department of Homeland Security to investigate the treatment of LGBT people in DHS custody, craft policies to address violations and oversee implementation.

According to the NIJC’s complaint (PDF), some of the people held are legal residents who were previously convicted of a crime -– in some cases, just a misdemeanor; others are felons who were transferred to ICE custody after longer prison sentences; and others were undocumented aliens or people who have overstayed their visas.

All are, or were, held based on civil and not criminal offenses, reports the NIJC.

The alleged abuses against LGBT individuals include denial of medical care, discrimination and sexual assault.

In one case, according to the NIJC complaint, Steve, a gay Peruvian asylum seeker, was held in solitary confinement for six weeks “on the sole basis that he is HIV-positive.”

“Officers frequently prohibited Steve from leaving his cell to get his HIV medication,” the report alleges. “Steve was traumatized when he sought medical treatment and an officer refused to remove the shackles from his feet, waist, and hands despite pleas from his doctor.”

The report describes sexual assaults by fellow inmates followed by repeated denials for transfer from the victim as well as a transgender inmate being denied her hormone treatment, despite her use of hormones for ten years prior to detainment.

“The administration should take immediate steps to apply the protections of the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), which would provide protections and remedies for individuals who are victims of sexual assault, to all immigration detention facilities,” the group said.

Heartland Alliance has established a letter campaign to President Barack Obama and DHS. (You can add your signature to the letter here.)

NIJC, based in Chicago, provides direct legal services to and advocates for immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers through policy reform, impact litigation, and public education.

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