Abuse against Transgender Women in US Immigration Detention
By Brian Stauffer, Human Rights Watch
March 23, 2016
Do you see how much I’m suffering here? Do you think anyone deserves to be punished like this? … Sometimes I get anxious. … I thought about killing myself once, but then I regretted it and told myself I wasn’t going to do it. I said, ‘Lord, you gave me my life, why am I going to take it away?’ It’s not His fault they have me suffering here like this.
At any given time, the United States holds scores of transgender women in immigration detention, including many who have fled to the US seeking protection from torture, sexual violence, and other forms of persecution in their home countries related to their gender identity or gender expression.
Once they arrive, the women are locked up for months or even years at a time in jails or prison-like detention centers as they wait for a court to adjudicate their asylum claims, or to be deported for civil immigration violations. While in detention, many experience sexual assault and other forms of abuse and ill-treatment, including denial of access to necessary medical care.
Immigration detention can be a difficult experience for anyone. But it is often particularly harmful for transgender women due to the abuse they have previously endured. Many are traumatized by extended placements in solitary confinement and other physically isolated settings—a practice that authorities often justify as a step to protect them from other forms of abuse in detention. Some are also denied prompt and adequate access to necessary medical care, including hormone replacement therapy and HIV-related care, or have been denied access to that care altogether.[...]
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