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Friday, December 9, 2016

Standing Up for Trans Immigrants Is More Important Than Ever

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The election of President-Elect Trump has brought about a wave of fear throughout our LGBT communities and this is especially true for LGBT immigrants and LGBT Muslims. This makes NCTE’s advocacy for compassionate immigration policies more important than ever, including for those caught in the massive and growing web of the immigrant detention and deportation system. NCTE is dedicated to achieving dignity, equality, and opportunity for all transgender people, including immigrants, people with disabilities, veterans, and people of all religions, nationalities, and incomes. NCTE also believes that when any community is attacked because of who they are, all of us are threatened.

Even ahead of the new administration, in recent months the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has rapidly expanded immigration detention to unprecedented levels. President-Elect Trump promised to triple the number of deportation agents, and use “joint operations” with local police to root out immigrants. Such a massive war against immigrants would be both cruel and ruinous for our economy and budget. NCTE will work aggressively with our local, state and national partners to ensure these ideas never become a reality.  

NCTE recently joined numerous advocates in urging DHS to follow the lead of the Justice Department by phasing out the use of for-profit private prisons, which hold 73% of the immigrants DHS incarcerates while they await civil immigration hearings. DOJ said in August it would phase out private prisons due to unsafe conditions and a lack of cost savings. A subcommittee of DHS’s independent Advisory Council studied the issue and cited numerous concerns with conditions, health care, and oversight in private immigration prisons but said phasing them out was unrealistic. (You can read a letter from NCTE and other advocates at the end of the panel’s report.) In a stunning turnaround, DHS’s full Advisory Council, a group of law enforcement and business leaders, legal experts, advocates, and former elected officials, voted 17-5 last week to recommend phasing out private prisons in favor of alternatives to detention. The recommendation is not binding on DHS.

In 2016, the immigration detention population has ballooned to a historic high of over 40,000 people every day and still climbing. DHS is scrambling for places to detain more immigrants, and one DHS official was quoted in the Wall Street Journal in October suggesting that new jail spaces may not conform to the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) standards that DHS is legally bound by. In response to these reports, NCTE joined with other advocates in a letter to remind the Secretary of the department’s legal obligations, saying that following PREA is not optional, and if DHS cannot ensure individuals will be housed in PREA-compliant facilities they should make use of alternatives to detention.

In addition to advocating for less detention overall, NCTE and many others have consistently pressed for keeping particularly vulnerable immigrants, including LGBT people and others who are physically frail or at risk for other reasons, out of detention centers. Disturbingly, a new report by the Center for American Progress that shows that ICE officers have overwhelmingly used their discretion to detain LGBT immigrants awaiting court dates when they had the opportunity not to. Other DHS policies already recognize LGBT immigrants as vulnerable—and yet the share of immigrants identified by ICE as LGBT who were detained went up from 75% in 2014 to 90% in 2015, driven overwhelmingly by discretionary decisions by ICE officers.

Until the day when there is a clear path to pass comprehensive immigration reform, NCTE will continue to work with advocates around the country to hold DHS, ICE officials and President-Elect Trump accountable and defend the progress we have made under President Obama. This means we will work aggressively to defend President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and continue to speak up, mobilize and educate the public. NCTE believes that the dignity and equality of all people are connected. We will stand up and speak out against bigotry and hate speech whenever it present. We will not tolerate attacks on any community in our nation; not on immigrants, Latino/as, Muslims, people of color, those with disabilities, women, transgender folks, or anyone else—not now, not ever.

Make your stand against bigotry: Donate to NCTE today!

 

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