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Friday, February 5, 2016

ICE Expansion at Santa Ana Is Rejected; NCTE Renews Call to End Detention of LGBT People

Earlier this week, the Santa Ana, CA city council rejected a contract proposal by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that would have established new housing protocols for transgender women, while also expanding the number of immigration detainees there. The vote comes just as local and national groups filed a complaint accusing the Santa Ana jail of a cruel and unconstitutional policy of routine, suspicionless strip searches of women (transgender and non-trans) held there. While the vote sends a message of opposition to ICE detention, right now it’s clear ICE intends to continue detaining LGBT people, and it’s not clear where it will send them.

ICE presented the proposed modification to its existing Santa Ana contract as necessary to implement its June 2015 “Transgender Care” guidance. Designed as a response to NCTE and others’ calls for release of LGBT immigrants, the memo instead says ICE could finally begin housing some transgender women alongside other women instead of with men—but only in facilities that signed updated ICE contracts. ICE initially pursued a modified contract with a remote private prison in Adelanto, CA, but abandoned that plan after strong opposition by advocates. Adelanto’s location far from legal or community help, as well as its history of medical neglect, were factors in NCTE’s and others’ opposition to this move.

ICE responded shifting plans from Adelanto to Santa Ana, where there are already separate units for transgender women and for gay and bisexual men. But ICE’s “Transgender Care” proposal for Santa Ana also included increasing the number of immigrants held by ICE there by 100—an obvious concern for advocates who have consistently opposed any ICE expansions. In the face of concerns about abusive conditions at Santa Ana—including the strip search policy—combined with the proposed expansion, the city council rejected the new contract.

NCTE calls, as we have long done, for an end to locking up LGBT immigrants and a dramatic shrinking of the ICE detention system. At the same time, we are concerned that ICE will respond to the rejection of the Santa Ana contract not by scaling back the detention of trans people but by transferring them to another, even worse facility such as Adelanto. We also remain deeply disturbed the longstanding strip search policy detailed in the new Santa Ana complaint, and urge the city and the Department of Homeland Security to take immediate steps to end it. NCTE will continue to work with our partners around the country to roll back the detention of LGBT people.

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