LGBTQ immigrants spend more time in detention and are more likely to be sexually assaulted

The Prison Rape Elimination Act in the United States requires ICE to publish annual reports on sexual assault allegations in detention


                            LGBTQ immigrants spend more time in detention and are more likely to be sexually assaulted

Self-identified LGBTQ immigrant detainees in the United States, who made up only 0.14 percent of the immigrants detained last fiscal year, accounted for over 12 percent cases of sexual abuse and assault in detention, according to the latest figures from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

ICE has not yet published the annual reports on allegations of sexual assault or treatment of LGBTQ people within its detention centers. However, the figures were released to the Democratic Representative of New York, Kathleen Rice, after she requested for them. The report stated that ICE detained transgender women in all-male facilities and locked them up on an average for over twice as long as immigrants overall, HuffPost reported.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers prepare for morning operations to arrest undocumented immigrants in New York City on April 11 (Getty Images)
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers prepare for morning operations to arrest undocumented immigrants in New York City on April 11 (Getty Images)

Rice said that she was "deeply disturbed" by the information and that she and 36 other members of the Democratic House are penning a letter to the Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. The letter reportedly urges Nielsen to ask ICE agents to use their discretion and release more LGBTQ immigrants on parole and look for other alternatives for them than detention, according to reports.

Rice, in a statement to HuffPost, said: "ICE should not be using its limited resources to detain hundreds of people who are vulnerable to abuse and pose no threat to public safety."

The Prison Rape Elimination Act in the United States requires ICE to publish annual reports on sexual assault allegations in detention, however, it has not published any reports yet. An ICE spokesperson said that the agency's first report is under internal review and that it plans to start publishing relevant statistics online soon.

Undocumented immigrants wait in a holding cell at a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) processing center in New York City on April 11 (Getty Images)
Undocumented immigrants wait in a holding cell at a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) processing center in New York City on April 11 (Getty Images)

According to the data released to Rice's office, the agency has received a total of 227 reports of sexual abuse and assault in the 2017 fiscal year, out of them 28 are associated with LGBTQ victims. The figure states that overall, there were 467 people who disclosed being LGBTQ during their intake, of the total 323,591 people detained that year.

While releasing the figures to the Congresswoman, ICE said that the average length of time transgender people were detained in 2017 fiscal year was 99 days, when compared to an average of about 44 days for all immigrants. The agency also added that at least one in eight transgender people in detention during that fiscal year was placed in solitary confinement. 

The agency, however, told HuffPost that it detained 247 self-identified transgender immigrants in 2017, and many of these people spent a significant period of time in the detention centers.