For example, Marichuy Leal Gamino is a transgender woman who grew up in Arizona and is detained by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) at the for-profit Eloy Detention Center. Despite the Prison Rape Elimination Act regulations that state that transgender people must be given the opportunity to be housed according to their gender identity, with the transgender person’s safety as the primary consideration, Immigration & Customs Enforcement chose to ignore the law and Marichuy’s safety by detaining her in the male population. When she reported threats by her cellmate, guards told her to just “deal with it,” and her cellmate ended up violently raping her. Guards then attempted to pressure her to claim that the rape was consensual. After ICE headquarters became aware of the attack, Marichuy was placed in solitary confinement for two days against her will. Her family is desperately worried about her.
Another individual, Miguel Armenta, is a gay man living with cancer, hepatitis and HIV who is detained at the for-profit Northwest Detention Center. He is not receiving the care he needs and has been torn away from Dennis, his U.S. citizen husband of six years. Because ICE has shown again and again that they are incapable of detaining LGBTQ people with even minimal levels of dignity and safety, a broad coalition has been working to free Marichuy and Dennis from immigration detention so that they can heal in the arms of their loving families and communities.
LGBTQ organizations have been continuously calling on President Obama to act to end the violence, degradation, and abuse faced by immigrants targeted and punished by ICE. We call on President Obama to act immediately to institute our previous recommendations to:“(1) suspend these deportations and ICE detainer requests; (2) expand the successful Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to as many people as possible under the law; and (3) revise detention policies to dramatically curtail the use of detention, including ending the detention of vulnerable individuals such as those who are LGBT, pregnant, or have disabilities, and of any person who poses no risk to public safety, and defining mandatory custody to include alternatives to detention.”
While the LGBTQ community applauds President Obama’s executive order this summer that protected employees of federal contractors from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the issue of immigration raises huge contradictions in the administration’s intent to protect LGBTQ people. The President can and must also use his executive authority to stop the federal government’s attacks on the immigrant members of our families and community.