New guidelines from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on detaining LGBT immigrants is raising some concerns in the immigrant and activist communities. A new set of regulations on how to treat LGBT detainees is designed to prevent sexual abuse in immigration detention facilities.
President Barack Obama made the decision in 2012 to apply the 2003 Prison Rape Elimination Act to DHS immigration centers. That act aimed to eliminate all sexual abuse in prisons in the U.S. under a zero-tolerance policy. Research and information gathering was to be used to protect the most vulnerable prisoners and prevent this type of crime from occurring.The goal was to make information on prison sexual abuse of LGBT detainees more readily available to administrators so those crimes would decrease and perpetrators would be held accountable. Since 2012, DHS has resisted implementing new procedures, so the Obama administration has agreed to allow DHS to create its own policy.
Immigrant rights groups support Obama’s push to protect LGBT detainees in the U.S. because oftentimes immigrant victims of abuse are too afraid to report the crime for fear of retaliation or deportation. However, some groups want more from the administration. In a press release from the Transgender Law Center and the National Center for Transgender Equality, a spokesperson expressed the need for protection of transgender immigrants in particular.
The new guidelines from DHS regulate searches of transgender detainees in order to ensure they are not abused or harassed. Additional documentation and approvals will be required before placing a detainee in solitary confinement, and the guidelines ensure that such methods are to be used only as a “last resort.” DHS officials are instructed to protect transgender detainees when there are no other safe or viable detention options available for an individual who might be at risk for sexual abuse or assault because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.