Last week, I wrote about the case of Nicoll Hernández-Polanco
, a Guatemalan transgender woman who is detained in an all-male Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Florence.
Mariposas Sin Fronteras, a Tucson LGBT/immigration advocacy group, and the Transgender Law Center wrote a letter denouncing the verbal, physical and sexual abuse Nicoll has endured while in custody. Among many things, Nicoll says she was sexually assaulted by another inmate—she filed an official complaint but says she never found out if an investigation was carrier out—and has been called violent slurs like "the woman with balls," and "it."
Because Nicoll had been deported in the past—she first came to the U.S. when she was a minor—ICE will not release her. Mariposas Sin Fronteras, the Transgender Law Center and other groups created a petition demanding ICE let her go.
I heard back from ICE a couple of days after I sent them the allegations.
This is what they said:
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is firmly committed to providing for the safety and welfare of all those in its custody. ICE has a strict zero tolerance policy for any kind of abusive or inappropriate behavior in its facilities and takes any allegations of such mistreatment very seriously. The Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General and ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility investigates all allegations of sexual abuse or other misconduct and takes appropriate action – whether it is pursuing criminal charges or administrative action - when such allegations are substantiated. Posters displayed in all ICE detention facilities direct detainees how to initiate a formal complaint. ICE meets routinely with nongovernmental organizations and other stakeholders as a part of the agency’s detention working groups. As a result of these discussions as well as the agency’s overall detention reform efforts, ICE has issued formal guidance to address the care and housing of vulnerable and special needs detainees.
On LGBT detainees:
ICE is committed to upholding an immigration detention system that prioritizes the health, safety, and welfare of all of those in our care in custody, including lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. The incident in question was reported to ICE and has been referred to the appropriate authorities for investigation.
Since 2009, ICE has taken important steps to reform the detention system as part of the agency’s Detention Reform Initiative. Many of the improvements benefit LGBT detainees; such as, reducing transfers, improving access to counsel and visitation, promoting recreation, improving conditions of confinement, ensuring quality medical and mental health care, protecting vulnerable populations, and carefully circumscribing the proper use of segregation.
The recently issued Sexual Abuse and Assault Prevention and Intervention Directive established agency-wide policy and procedures for responding to incidents or allegations of sexual abuse or assault of individuals in ICE custody. The policy delineates duties for timely reporting, coordinated response and investigation, and effective monitoring of all incidents to ensure an integrated and comprehensive response system.
As of today, Nicoll is still in detention. Her attorneys continue to ask for her release, but say ICE refuses and that they continue to ignore the abuse and negligence she's going through.
Is it that hard to at least transfer her to a facility for female detainees? Sadly, it's not surprising to hear this system is as gender diverse phobic as others.