Adventures of a Forced Migrant Contact Me
Responding to grassroots pressure from advocates, and mounting criticismfrom congressional leaders such as Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) unveiled an 18-page memorandum for the care of transgender immigrants in detention this week.
While these guidelines are a step in the right direction and long overdue, it’s still not enough and here’s why:
1. Detention of vulnerable immigrants is inherently inhumane: The new guidance does nothing to move us away from the prolonged detention of transgender individuals, the vast majority of whom are asylum seekers who have already faced persecution in their home countries, only to be subjected to further pain and suffering at the hands of ICE. Detaining asylum seekers is inhumane, re-traumatizes some of the most vulnerable immigrants and it is contrary to our laws when detention is used as a form of deterrence to dissuade people from coming to the United States. Advocates have repeatedly called on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials to release such detainees once they have proven that their fear of persecution is credible. Officials should act to end the practice of detaining such individuals, as there is no mending it.
2. The new guidance provides inadequate care and housing options: The guidance continues to allow practices that have been denounced as inhumane, such as administrative segregation, ‘protective custody’ and isolated pods for transgender detainees. ICE detains 75 transgender immigrants on average, which is less than one percent of the detainee population, but over 20 percent of sexual assault cases in immigrant detention involve a transgender survivor. Alternative housing practices havefailed to protect transgender immigrants in detention from sexual assault and physical abuse in the past, and should not be used when releasing such detainees on bond or parole is a much more humane and cheaper alternative.
3. No guidelines for the treatment of vulnerable immigrants such as lesbian, gay and bisexual asylum seekers: Many individuals seeking asylum in the United States are detained upon arriving at a port of entry. Many of them, including lesbians, gays and bisexuals, have suffered severe persecution in their home countries. A recent Center for American Progress report shows that ICE routinely detains LGBT immigrants who it knows are at great risk and should not be behind bars. A disproportionate number of undocumented LGBT individuals are Asian American. The new guidelines do nothing to recognize that these individuals, who may have suffered sexual assault and torture in their home countries, remain vulnerable in immigrant detention and should be released.
4. No guidelines for dealing with sexual assault and abuse in detention:Transgender immigrants in ICE custody face extremely harsh conditions such as alarming rates of sexual assault, physical abuse and harassment. While housing them according to their gender identity may reduce some of the violence transgender detainees face, the guidelines provide no mechanism for reporting ongoing violence. Forty percent of sexual assault cases in detention are unreported, and the guidelines contain no mention of how transgender immigrants can report assault, or any measures to protect transgender immigrants from such assault.
5. No enforcement mechanism — The ICE ERO working group that crafted this guidance worked hard to meet with transgender detainees and try to ascertain best practices for the detention of transgender individuals in custody. However, without a grievance mechanism, the guidance may be tough to enforce at all facilities.
We strongly urge the ICE ERO working group to consider alternatives to detention for LGBT and other vulnerable immigrants in detention.
I’ve been working on this for quite a while and will also have a practical comprehensive “know your rights” guide for everyone who attends the CLE, which focuses more on transgender issues. I worry that discourse around LGBT immigrants, refugee and asylum seekers is so U.S.-centric, so we’ll also speak to how other jurisdictions deal with this issue. On a related note, I’m working on a paper that articulates how queer migrant bodies and violence against potential LGBT asylum seekers is used to propel a particular civilizational discourse that functions as a way to justify and extend U.S. colonialism.
Monday, August 8 · 5:00pm – 7:30pm
Location: Room 3211 at Golden Gate University in San Francisco
By National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter
2 Hours California MCLE credit will be provided. $40 for nonmembers; $20 for members (No one turned away for lack of funds). Free for non-credit seekers.
Register Online: http://crm.nlgsf.org/civic?rm/event/register?reset=1&?id=9
Co-Sponsors: Immigrant Legal Resource Center, South Asian Bar Association – Bay Area, Asian Law Caucus, Immigration Equality, Asylum Access, Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom.
About the CLE: Speakers will present on a multitude of issues regarding LGBT immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, including the progress made in adjudicating claims by same-sex bi-national couples, the impact of DOMA litigation or repeal of DOMA on LGBT immigrants. Speakers will also present on how LGBTI asylum cases would be handled in a variety of the jurisdictions outside the U.S. context and on the UNHCR refugee status determination process.
Zachary M. Nightingale is partner at Partner at Van Der Hout, Brigagliano and Nightingale. His practice focuses on deportation defense and federal court litigation, with an emphasis on the immigration consequences of criminal convictions. Other specialties include asylum, naturalization, and family-based adjustment of status. A significant part of his practice includes advising non-citizens and their attorneys as to the immigration consequences of pending criminal charges, and how to minimize those consequences.
Emily E. Arnold-Fernández, Esq., the founder and executive director of Asylum Access, is a lawyer who has advocated nationally and internationally for the human rights of women, children, and other vulnerable individuals, Emily first became involved in refugee rights in 2002, when she represented refugees in United Nations proceedings in Cairo, Egypt. Emily’s legal advocacy won her client protection and safety in Egypt until his eventual resettlement in the U.S. Recognizing that refugees throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America – some of whom flee with nothing more than the clothes on their backs – were almost always unequipped to go into a legal proceeding in a foreign country, alone, and explain why they should not be deported, Emily founded Asylum Access to advocate on behalf of refugees seeking to assert their rights.
Chelsea Haley-Nelson is the EOIR liaison at American Immigration Lawyers Association of Northern California, a Co-Chair at BALIF and a Co-Chair with the Immigration Committee at National Lawyer’s Guild-San Francisco Chapter.
If you read nothing today (and hopefully not any of my hormonal teenage crap), you should certainly read this piece:
Whenever people in the United States ask if I’ve ever been camping, I say “No, but does refugee camping count?” Apparently it’s only Real Camping if you take a shit in the deep woods. It means nothing if you have all the latest gadgets for camping from gearhungry.com. It doesn’t matter if you’re up to date on the latest monocular reviews, if you haven’t used tree leaves to wipe your bum, you haven’t truly camped in the woods. I had to shit in the desert in the wide open, and there was no environmentally friendly self-dissolving toilet paper out there. We used the sand as soap. I still believe it works. I have to.
The year was 1990. Iraq had just invaded Kuwait, and we didn’t know what was going to happen next. I was eight, I never knew anything anyways. I remember my parents trying to hold on to Kuwaiti Dinars, the old money. I remember seeing Iraqi soldiers, who were nice enough in the city to Indian immigrants with little kids. School was closed and I knew it was bad of me to be glad, but I was. We had sleepovers every night with my two best friends Aarti and Aru’s families. We danced, played cards, watched movies, and stayed up late every night.
Seriously. Do it. Then, send it to your friends and family members.
I shouldn’t be the only person to be rendered speechless and unproductive by this wonderful person and writer.