Trauma Compounded: The Plight of LGBT Immigration Detainees

Published: November 2, 2011

The Department of Homeland Security assumes that mass detention is the key to immigration enforcement. But in fact, our detention system locks up thousands of immigrants unnecessarily every year, exposing detainees to brutal and inhumane conditions of confinement at massive costs to American taxpayers. Throughout the next two weeks, check back daily for posts about the costs of immigration detention, both human and fiscal, and what needs to be done to ensure fair and humane policy.

The ACLU recently unveiled government documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act which show the widespread, systemic nature of sexual abuse of detainees in immigration detention facilities. While the problem of sexual abuse of immigration detainees reaches far and wide, there are particularly vulnerable populations in detention including those with mental disabilities, asylum-seekers, torture survivors, women, children and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender ("LGBT") immigrants.

While it is true that physical and sexual abuse is one of the most serious problems for LGBT detainees, it is by no means the only concern facing them. Additional concerns, which often compound the trauma of a sexual assault, include placement in long-term segregation or "protective custody"; inadequate medical care; and, in the case of transgender detainees, being housed with detainees of a gender with which they do not identify.

Earlier this year, the ACLU of Arizona released "In Their Own Words: Enduring Abuse in Arizona Immigration Detention Centers," which includes a section highlighting the array of problems confronting LGBT detainees. The ACLU of Arizona documented five cases involving transgender or gay detainees who were sexually assaulted or treated in an abusive manner while in detention in Arizona facilities.

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