Despite positioning themselves as staunch supporters of the transgender movement, the Joe Biden administration has rejected calls to protect one of the most vulnerable groups of trans people: migrants who are stuck in U.S. immigration detention where, reports show, they have faced severe abuse, discrimination and medical neglect, reports The Guardian. Trans women are often housed with men, and vice versa. Although Biden has called for expanded international protections for LGBTQ+ people and the administration also recently met with End Trans Detention campaign advocates, the president has not shifted his policies on the detention of trans migrants. A 2013 US government report found that nearly one in four substantiated cases of sexual assault in Ice detention involved a trans victim, with multiple cases of trans women abused by guards. Data has also shown that trans detainees are routinely placed in solitary confinement, allegedly for their own protection, sometimes for weeks or months on end. One report found that trans detainees were held in ICE for 99 days on average, twice as long as the overall average length of detention.
In recent years, two trans women who had HIV and were seeking asylum died after they were denied medical care. ICE reported that there were 31 self-identified trans detainees last fall, but those numbers have likely since changed and advocates caution that ICE’s data is an undercount since some trans people are afraid to out themselves. Confronted with reports about abuse, ICE has created separate units for trans detainees, advocates say those “pods” have been rife with problems, too, and that the efforts at reforming conditions have not stopped the violence. Activists met with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials in April to discuss a detailed 18-page policy memo arguing that ICE is incapable of keeping trans people safe in custody, and that the only appropriate option was to adopt community-based alternatives to detention. The memo said there should be a presumption of release for trans migrants and people living with HIV, and outlined organizations across the country that could assist with housing and case management.