Courtesy of Mariposas Sin Fronteras
Last week, Hillary Clinton said she'd like to reduce the number of "vulnerable" groups in immigration detention
facilities—referring to unaccompanied minors, LGBT people, and many others.
During a speech at a Nevada high school, in a room full of DREAMers, she said (from a Slate article):
“I’m very worried about detention, and detention facilities for people who are vulnerable and for children...I think we could do a better job if we kept attention to the people who have a record of violent, illegal behavior and that we have a different approach toward people who are not in that category.”
Someone in the audience asked her how she thinks this country could better protect transgender detainees, many of whom are placed in detention facilities based on the gender they were assigned at birth and not the one they identify with (despite the Department of Homeland Security having rules in place that says Immigration and Customs Enforcement should respect the detainee's gender identity—also as a matter of safety).
(ICE has a longstanding history of not obeying its own regulations. Sadly, cases like Nicoll Hernández-Polanco's
—a Guatemalan transgender woman who was in an all-male detention in Florence for six months until she was granted asylum—are very, very common.)
More from her comment:
"I think that we have to do more to provide safe environments for vulnerable populations. And that certainly includes the LGBT community, also includes children, and it includes unaccompanied children. There are just—there are groups of people who I think we deserve a higher level of care, because of the situations that they are finding themselves in. I also think that we have to reform our detention system. I'm not sure a lot of Americans know that a lot of the detention facilities for immigrants are run by private companies and that they have a built in incentive to fill them up, that there is actually a legal requirement that so many beds be filled. So people go out and round up people in order to get paid on a per bed basis. I mean that just makes no sense at all to me. That's not the way we should be running any detention facility. So I think there is a lot we have to do to change what is currently happening and to try to put us on a path toward a better, fairer, or more humane system for everybody."
Mariposas Sin Fronteras
—a Tucson group that focuses on freeing LGBT immigrants from detention (and have successfully campaigned for many cases)—isn't buying it and called Clinton's comments a political disguise.
They issued this statement on Tuesday:
The comments of the aspiring presidential candidate are a political disguise and farce. Her comments are only that—pretty-sounding words, but in practice we don’t see anything promising. Hillary was part of the Obama administration cabinet. Her government has deported more than 2 million people. She has been part of the system that detains and deports our LGBTQJ community. As a government official, she was a sponsor and accomplice of the violation of the human rights of the LGBTQJ migrant community.
What has she done over the years when the government was asked to provide better treatment for transgender people in detention? The conditions seem to only be getting worse. What is Hillary doing about our experiences with being mis-gendered and made targets of sexual assault, psychological and emotional abuse, medical negligence and inadequate mental health services?
Why does she now consider our LGBTQJ community a vulnerable group, but her administration didn’t think so when it really mattered—during Obama’s November 20th immigration executive order?
Also, she criticizes the system of for-profit detention centers, but what has she done to end the prison industry and to end those contracts that her own government signs with companies like CCA and Geo Group?
How much advocacy has she done so that Congress put an end to the quota system of detention?
Words without action are nothing but empty promises.
Hillary says, “We have to reform the detention system.” Mariposas Sin Fronteras believes that ICE has only shown that it is incapable of and will never have the will-power to provide dignified treatment to the LBGQTJ community in detention. Nicoll, Silvia, Karolina, Tamara, Tania, Karla, Bella, Rebecca, Luna, Vanessa, Ariel, Roger, Marcos, Xochil, Suleima, Milton, Luis, Shantel, José and many more members that have been previously detained believe that it is impossible to reform the detention system and make it just. Detention is imprisonment and torture and by its very nature racist, classist, homophobic and transphobic.
That is why we believe that no one from the LGBTQJ community should be placed in detention and we ask that the prison industry be terminated and all detention centers be shutdown.
One day in detention is too long.
One deportation is too many.
There's a national movement trying to hold the system accountable—groups like LA-based Família: Trans Queer Liberation Movement are pressuring the federal government to expand deferred action to LGBT people and include them in a highly vulnerable group that should not be detained.
This government knows that transgender detainees are more likely to be raped and suffer other types of brutal abuse in detention, but they place them there anyway. Thousands of asylum seekers, escaping violence in their native countries over their status as trans, thrown into that cycle again, when the primary purpose of asylum is to provide these individuals with a safe haven.