New York, NY - Today Immigration Equality, the nation's leading organization representing and advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender ( LGBT ) and HIV-affected immigrants, celebrated news from Immigration and Customs Enforcement ( ICE ) that it would no longer pursue using Adelanto Detention Facility in California as a center for detaining transgender immigrants.
The news comes after a months long campaign by the National LGBTQ Immigration Working Group headed by Immigration Equality, which included sending an open letter to President Obama from the group's more than 100 LGBTQ, immigration, and civil rights organizations, including CIVIC, National Center for Transgender Equality, and United We Dream.
"Adelanto would have kept transgender immigrants hours away from legal counsel and community support, making it nearly impossible for advocates to ensure accountability at the facility," said Aaron C. Morris, Immigration Equality's Legal Director. "While we continue to advocate for alternatives to detention as the only safe option for LGBT immigrants, taking Adelanto off the table is an enormous victory for our community."
Marco A. Quiroga, Immigration Equality's National Field Officer who leads the National LGBTQ Immigration Working Group added, "Adelanto is a terrible facility that should be shut down because is not a safe place for anyone. We will continue to work with grassroots leaders in Southern California and across the country to advocate on behalf of the thousands of immigrants still trapped in inhumane detention centers. Fundamentally, vulnerable individuals such as pregnant women, families with children, people living with HIV, and LGBTQ people should not be detained in the first place."
The Adelanto Detention Facility in Southern California is geographically remote and poorly suited for transgender immigrants. The facility is in the Mojave Desert of Southern California, which is a four-hour round trip from Los Angeles and where the nearest legal community is based. Placing transgender immigrants in the facility would have effectively prevented any independent oversight by advocates and would have severely limit transgender immigrants' access to attorneys.
On Aug. 3, 2015, LGBT advocates toured the Adelanto Detention Facility and spoke to individuals detained there. "We met a trans woman from Guatemala who had been placed in the men's housing unit. The government did not even seem to know she was there," said Morris.
A June 23rd Congressional Letter delivered to Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, and endorsed by 35 U.S. House of Representatives called for the end to LGBTQ detention and immediate release on parole to their community. In an endorsement letter signed by over 100 organizations across the U.S. and delivered to the White House, DHS, and ICE on August 24th, advocates condemned the plan by citing reports of abuses including solitary confinement, denial of medical care, and pervasive sexual harassment by GEO Group facilities, the same for-profit corporation that runs the Adelanto facility. Adelanto Detention Facility's documented failure to prevent or address sexual assault was a particular concern for advocates who pointed to the fact that transgender women in detention experience sexual assault 13 times the the rate of all persons in detention facilities according to frequently cited California study.
In recent weeks, Adelanto has become the fourth immigrant detention facility in the United States where detainees have gone on hunger strike, refusing food to protest the worsening conditions at the facility.
Immigration Equality represents and advocates for people from around the world fleeing violence, abuse, and persecution because
of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and HIV status. Our team of legal experts has won asylum for more than 850 LGBT and HIV-affected immigrants.