For the first time ever, transgender detainees will be held in immigration facilities that match their gender identity, as opposed to being forced into spaces for people of their assigned birth sex.
U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement made the change as part of a larger program to improve its treatment of trans people, especially trans women. The decision also comes shortly after trans activist Jennicet Gutiérrez demanded at the White House that President Obama stop deporting LGBTQ people.
“This guidance does not change the fundamental issue that Jennicet Gutiérrez so bravely brought to President Obama last week: detention and deportation of transgender people must end,” said Kris Hayashi, director of the Transgender Law Center, a transgender civil rights organization based in San Francisco.
“The guidelines released by ICE don’t go far enough,” said Cristina Jimenez, the managing director of the immigrant rights group United We Dream, in a statement.
“There is more that ICE can and must do to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer immigrants are safe,” said Jimenez.
ICE officials pointed out there are more transgender individuals that are outside on release mechanisms than in custody. Those release mechanism include posting bond, order of supervision, recognizance or alternative detention programs.
“It would be an improvement, certainly, to not be housed with men anymore, but it’s still not ideal. It’s still detention,” said Barbra Perez, a transgender woman who said she faced constant harassment while detained in an all-male facility last year.
There are still lots of questions around the new policies, particularly with regards to implementation, which has historically not been very reliable. We really are taking this step by step, it seems, but this step is a good one.