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EXCLUSIVE: Advocates allege gay ICE detainee not receiving PTSD treatment

Luís Armando Mendoza Sanchez of Perú remains detained in Louisiana



Gay News, Washington Blade, Gay Peru, Immigration

Luís Armando Mendoza Sanchez has been in ICE custody since February. Clement Lee of Immigration Equality acknowledged that PTSD is not uncommon among LGBT immigrants. (Washington Blade file photo)

Advocates and family members of a gay undocumented Peruvian immigrant who remains in a Louisiana detention center maintain he has not received proper treatment for the post-traumatic stress disorder that stems from the anti-gay discrimination and violence they say he suffered in his homeland.

U.S. Border Control agents took Luís Armando Mendoza Sanchez into custody near Penitas, Texas, on Feb. 25 shortly after he entered the country. Vinnie Picard, spokesperson for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told the Blade that Mendoza, 22, told arresting officers that he was from Perú and that he was not afraid to return to the South American country. He noted that Mendoza informed agents who detained him near Douglas, Ariz., on Jan. 22 that he was from Mexico.

Picard said that Mendoza told an ICE officer a few days after agents took him into custody in Texas that he actually was afraid to return to Perú because of his sexual orientation. He was transferred to the New Orleans Field Office while U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services evaluated his asylum claim.

Mendoza’s aunt Maribel, who lives in D.C., reached out to transgender activist Ruby Corado in July after she saw her on a local Spanish language television station. She told her that Mendoza was afraid that his fellow inmates at the Oakdale Federal Detention Center in central Louisiana were going to rape him.

Maribel, who declined to give her last name, told the Blade that her nephew left the Peruvian capital, Lima, six months ago to escape what she described as anti-gay persecution and violence from local police, neighbors and others. Mendoza’s parents passed away from AIDS when he was a teenager, and Maribel said that he sought what she described as a better life in the United States.

Corado relayed Maribel’s concerns to ICE officials.

“I have some serious concerns on the severe mental health consequences that result from the long terms of incarceration that many LGBT people experience while in custody of ICE,” she wrote in a July 27 e-mail to Melissa Jaramillo of ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations that the Blade obtained. “Many of these detainees are people who have suffered severe trauma and incarceration in their home countries and have or are dealing with issues of sexual abuse and rape or the post-traumatic stresses after they were victims or a violent crime.”

Corado sent a second e-mail to Jaramillo on Aug. 8.

“Talking to Luís [Mendoza] tonight, it seems to me that my plea for help for LGBT victims like Luís is not going anywhere, no mental health or therapy is being offered to him,” she wrote. “Nobody has even attempted to reach out to him to help him address his mental anguish.”

Picard confirmed to the Blade that Corado had contacted ICE and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that oversees the agency about concerns she and Maribel had over his safety.

“ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) officers immediately interviewed Mr. Mendoza about his perceived safety concerns,” he said. “Mister Mendoza’s only stated concern to ERO officers was how his claim of persecution based on his sexual orientation relates to his asylum case. Mister Mendoza did not affirmatively advise ERO or detention center staff of any safety concerns.”

Clement Lee of Immigration Equality acknowledged to the Blade that PTSD is not uncommon among LGBT immigrants. He further noted that a detainee’s access to medical care depends upon the type of facility in which they are held — some are run directly by ICE, while others are contract facilities and even local jails.

“Some of them get better care, some don’t,” said Lee. “I’ve had clients that have been able to get prescription medications to treat depression, to treat hallucinations. I’ve had other people who have sort of just languish and meet with a psychologist just one and say that’s too much — you’ve been raped 17 times, this is more than I can handle. The stress of being in detention sort of adds to that PTSD.”

Picard said Mendoza received a mental health screening from ICE Health Services Corps after he was transferred to the LaSalle Detention Center in Jena, La., late last month. Agency protocol indicates that each detainee who enters an ICE detention facility undergoes a screening that includes a medical, dental and mental health evaluation within 12 hours of their arrival.

“The initial report from IHSC is that Mr. Mendoza had a standard medical and mental wellness check,” said Picard. “Mr. Mendoza reported that, in general, he is fine.”


The White House

Biden’s Pride month proclamation: ‘Our nation faces another inflection point’

States across the country have passed anti-LGBTQ laws



The White House was lit in rainbow colors following the Respect for Marriage Act signing in December 2022. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Just as the 1969 Stonewall riots marked a transformational time for LGBTQ civil rights in America, the country now faces another critical inflection point, President Joe Biden said in the White House’s proclamation Wednesday honoring Pride month.

This moment is precipitated by the wave of hateful anti-LGBTQ legislation moving through state and local legislatures across the country and amid the escalating violence and threats of violence against the community, the statement notes:

“In 2023 alone, state and local legislatures have already introduced over 600 hateful laws targeting the LGBTQI+ community. Books about LGBTQI+ people are being banned from libraries. Transgender youth in over a dozen states have had their medically necessary health care banned. Homophobic and transphobic vitriol spewed online has spilled over into real life, as armed hate groups intimidate people at Pride marches and drag performances, and threaten doctors’ offices and children’s hospitals that offer care to the LGBTQI+ community. Our hearts are heavy with grief for the loved ones we have lost to anti-LGBTQI+ violence.”

Biden drew parallels between the “LGBTQI+ protestors” who “bravely stood their ground” against the law enforcement dispatched to arrest them more than 50 years ago and the youth organizers leading walkouts in response to discriminatory education laws, along with the “young people and their parents [who] are demonstrating unimaginable courage by testifying in state capitols in defense of their basic rights.”

The statement reaffirms the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to standing “proudly with the LGBTQI+ community in the enduring struggle for freedom, justice and equality,” chronicling some of the major steps the administration has taken on this front.

Biden highlighted his issuance, on his first day in office, of an executive order prohibiting anti-LGBTQ discrimination, along with his signage last year of the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified protects for the rights of same-sex couples that might otherwise be jeopardized by the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority.

The statement then noted the administration’s moves to protect LGBTQ youth by ordering federal agencies to: Combat conversion therapy, “end the crisis of homelessness among LGBTQI+ youth and adults,” and address anti-LGBTQ discrimination in foster care.

Meanwhile, Biden said, the Justice Department is fighting against discriminatory laws targeting transgender youth, while the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services have drafted rules that would better protect anti-LGBTQ discrimination “in healthcare, at school and in sports” and the White House is developing ways to combat online harassment and abuse that “disproportionately target LGBTQ people.”

Finally, the White House noted: Its rollout last year of the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline for LGBTQ youth, who can now reach specially trained counselors by dialing 988 and then three; the administration’s appointment of historic numbers of LGBTQ appointees at all levels of the federal government; and its repeal of bans preventing trans people from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

From passing federal nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans via the Equality Act to addressing “the crisis of violence against transgender women and girls of color,” Biden acknowledged the work that lies ahead.

“This month and every month,” his proclamation concludes, “let us celebrate the pride that powers the movement for LGBTQI+ rights and commit to doing our part to help realize the promise of America, for all Americans.”

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Defense secretary orders cancellation of drag show at Nev. Air Force base

Event was to have taken place at Nellis AFB on Thursday



Photo courtesy of U.S. Air Force Public Affairs)

A previously scheduled drag show to kick off Pride month on the sprawling Nellis Air Force Base, an advanced combat aviation training facility for the U.S. Air Force northeast of Las Vegas, was cancelled Wednesday according to a Pentagon official, after U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stepped in.

A Pentagon source familiar with the matter told the Washington Blade that Milley informed Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., that it is not Pentagon policy to fund drag shows on bases and the show needed to be canceled or moved off base. 

The issue over drag performances was a focus at a House Armed Services Committee hearing earlier this year on March 29, when anti-LGBTQ Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) demanded in an angry tone that Austin and Milley explain why drag queen story hours were being hosted on U.S. military installations. The Florida Republican mentioned bases in Montana, Nevada, Virginia and Germany.

In a highly publicized incident in May 2022, Stars and Stripes reported that the Commanding General of the 86th Airlift Wing at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany had a drag queen story time, that was to be held in honor of Pride month cancelled. 

According to Stars and Stripes, the 86th Air Wing’s public affairs sent a statement to a radical-right anti-LGBTQ news outlet in Canada, the Post Millennial, which had requested comment to its article about the event and also accused the Air Force of pushing a more “woke” agenda among servicemen. 

In a press release, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) took partial credit for the cancellation.

Rubio sent a letter to U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall regarding the Air Force Library at Ramstein hosting a “Drag Queen Story Time” event for young children of servicemembers. 

Rubio urged him to cancel the event, discipline the staff involved in planning and hosting the event and respond to questions on whether other installations both at home and around the world have done similar events. Following receipt of Rubio’s letter, the Air Force canceled the event. 

“The last thing parents serving their nation overseas should be worried about, particularly in a theater with heightened geopolitical tensions, is whether their children are being exposed to sexually charged content simply because they visited their local library,” Rubio wrote.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin, III, and Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meet with U.S. Army Gen. Scott Miller at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on July 14, 2021. (Photo by Carlos M. Vazquez, Department of Defense)

A Pentagon official referring to the drag show at Nellis said Milley was visibly angry about the decision to host the event on base after being informed about it earlier this week.

The drag show was scheduled for Thursday, but Maj. Gen. Case A. Cunningham, the commander of the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center at Nellis was informed in the past few days that it must either be canceled or moved off base. 

On May 23, Gaetz sent a letter to Austin and Milley, alleging that the “pervasive and persistent use of taxpayer dollars for drag events,” had a June 1 Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., event scheduled.

Gaetz went on to write that “Nellis Air Force Base has announced a so-called ‘family-friendly’ drag organized by the Nellis LGBTQ+ Pride Council for June 1, 2023. In this latest outright attack on children, this event is being advertised as having no minimum age requirement.” 

In his letter Gaetz also demanded to know: 

  • Does the DoD feel it’s appropriate for children to attend a sexualized drag performance?
  • Why are base commanders defying your intent and direction by facilitating drag events?
  • If this event goes forward, whether on June 1 or a later scheduled date, please provide an explanation regarding your justification for why you allowed the event to take place.

According to a spokesperson for the U.S. Air Force Warfare Center, Nellis, in June 2021 the base had hosted a Pride month drag show titled “Drag-u-Nellis.” The spokesperson noted the 2021 show was intended to promote inclusivity and diversity. 

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Ala. extends ban on transgender female athletes to universities

Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed bill on Tuesday



Alabama Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Governor Kay Ivey on Tuesday signed House Bill 261, which limits transgender students to playing sports in public colleges and universities only with “their biological sex assigned at birth.”

“Look, if you are a biological male, you are not going to be competing in women’s and girls’ sports in Alabama. It’s about fairness, plain and simple,”  said Ivey in a statement released by her office.

House Bill 261 was approved 26-4 in the Alabama Senate and 83-5 in the House of Representatives. In the vote in the House more than a dozen lawmakers abstained from the vote.

Ivey had previously signed legislation in 2021 banning trans female athletes from competing in K-12 girls sports. At the time she signed that bill the governor had noted that “Alabama remains committed to protecting female athletes at all levels and upholding the integrity of athletics.”

Carmarion D. Anderson-Harvey, Alabama state director of the Human Rights Campaign, said the legislation is part of a “systematic attack against LGBTQ+ people” in Alabama and elsewhere.

“In just two years, [Ivey] and extremist lawmakers in Alabama have passed four anti-LGBTQ+ bills. From dictating what bathrooms we can use to blatantly ignoring the actual problems in women’s sports, these politicians are making Alabama an increasingly hostile place for transgender people and the LGBTQ+ community as a whole,” Anderson-Harvey said.

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