Immigration and Customs Enforcement will implement new guidelines designed to better protect transgender people in immigration detention facilities, the agency announced Monday.
The announcement comes after 35 congressional Democrats wrote to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson earlier this month asking ICE to change its policies toward those detainees. The lawmakers also asked ICE to collect better data on how many people flee their homelands for fear of persecution because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
“We want to make sure our employees have the tools and resources available to learn more about how to interact with transgender individuals and ensure effective standards exist to house and care for them throughout the custody cycle,” Thomas Homan, executive assistant director for ICE’s Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations, said in a statement.
According to the memorandum, ICE will now collect data on how many immigrants in its custody are transgender, and provide training and guidance to ICE officers to keep those detainees safe. ICE will also name a special coordinator to manage such issues for each of its 24 field offices.
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Immigrant rights groups said the proposed changes don’t go far enough, and that the agency must back up its words with deeds.
“A guidance document cannot be expected to change the fact that DHS and ICE have consistently failed at maintaining a minimum of safety and dignity for transgender immigrants,” a coalition of immigrant rights groups, including Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement and the Transgender Law Center, said in a statement. “Transgender immigrants and other vulnerable populations, including mothers with their children and gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer detainees, should be released from detention.”
Monday’s announcement comes a day before immigrant rights groups and LGBT supporters are scheduled to rally at the White House to protest the detention of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender immigrants in ICE facilities.