Number of Trans People in ICE Custody Is Almost Double the 2018 Average

At the end of the 2018 fiscal year, ICE had 68 transgender people in custody. Today they have 111.

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Feb 11 2019, 8:41pm

Recent reports state that 45 transgender individuals are being held at the South Texas Detention Complex in Texas, a privately owned facility. In an email to Broadly, ICE spokesperson Dani Bennett confirmed that, as of February 4, "ICE has in custody 111 self-identified transgender individuals in 20 facilities across the nation." That number is almost twice as high as it was just five months ago. In the 2018 fiscal year, which ends on September 30 for ICE, "There were on average 68 transgender detainees in 18 facilities across the country," Bennett told Broadly.

This data comes months after the death of 33-year-old Roxsana Hernandez Rodriguez, a Honduran transgender woman who died in ICE custody. (An independent autopsy found "deep hemorrhaging of the soft tissues and muscles over her ribs," but ICE states that "allegations that she was abused in ICE custody are false.")

According to Bennett, ICE has explored "less restrictive housing options for LGBTI individuals" for the last eight years, touting a 2014 development in California she calls the "first-of-its-kind dedicated unit for transgender women," and a 2015 memorandum outlining treatment of transgender detainees. Bennet describes access to health and dental care and hormone therapy for those who were already taking it before being taken into ICE custody.

ICE has in custody 111 self-identified transgender individuals in 20 facilities across the nation.

The California unit's apparent "success" led to the construction of another in Cibola County, New Mexico in 2017. The facility where these women are forcibly held has "microwaves" and "televisions," Bennett told Broadly, describing the facility's basic amenities.

Trans detainees in ICE custody outside of these two facilities are held with the general population. According to the Human Rights Campaign, in 2017, "Trans women were detained on average more than twice the average length of detainment of all immigrants held in ICE custody." And according to the Center for American Progress, trans women "have also consistently reported harassment, assault and maltreatment from ICE officers due to their transgender status."

Jeremy Kadden is the senior international policy advocate at the HRC. In an interview with Broadly, Kadden highlighted the disastrous circumstances that many trans immigrants are facing in their home countries. Trans people come to the US "fleeing violence and persecution," he said. Referencing the history of maltreatment that the HRC has previously reported, Kadden says, "It is crucial that Congress and the American people keep a close eye on the conditions at these facilities and how trans people are being treated."

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Gillian Branstetter is the media relations manager for the National Center for Transgender Equality. In an interview with Broadly, Branstetter claimed that "ICE regularly fails to respect the most basic human rights of its detainees, and transgender people endure particularly brutal harsh treatment while in their custody," adding, "While representing just 0.1% of ICE’s detention population, LGBTQ detainees make up an astounding 12 percent of sexual assault victims in ICE detention centers. This is particularly alarming, given recent reports ICE has let sexual assault reports slide at facilities run by contractors."

There appears to be an increased detention of transgender people in recent years. "ICE told us in 2016 [that] they had 60 currently in detention," Branstetter said, "so this would be a 185 percent increase—or nearly twice what it was at the end of the Obama administration."