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2 Transgender Detainees Faced Abuse In Detention, Migrant Aid Groups Say

A pair of migrant aid groups say two transgender women held with men at an Arizona detention center have faced abuse and violence at the hands of fellow detainees, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement should release all transgender migrants on humanitarian grounds.

The Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project and the Kino Border Initiative said the transgender women have spent months at the Eloy Detention Center.

“They have been persistently harassed, threatened and harmed by other detainees,” said Alex Miller, attorney for the women, and Kino Border Initiative Legal Fellow at the Florence Project.

One of the transgender women is from Mexico and the other Honduras, Miller said. The latter just won asylum and has been released. But multiple requests for ICE to parole the Mexican woman have been denied, even though her experience shows it’s not safe to hold transgender people with the opposite sex.

“It is inherently dangerous for them to be detained. And that applies across the board to other transgender migrants,” Miller said.

ICE did not start tracking transgender detainees until November 2015. The number of people in ICE custody who self-identified as transgender has increased each fiscal year since then. Aside from dedicated units, transgender people can be detained with the general population, or in protective custody. Where transgender people are held gets decided on a case-by-case basis.

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.