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Reporters granted access to ICE transgender detainee unit

Tour took place at Cibola County Correctional Center in N.M.



The Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M. Roxsana Hernández, a transgender woman from Honduras with HIV, died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody on May 25, 2018, after she had been held at the facility. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

MILAN, N.M. — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Wednesday for the first time granted reporters access to a unit created specifically for transgender women who are in their custody.

Reporters from the Washington Blade; the Associated Press; Univision and KFOX, a television station in El Paso, Texas, toured the unit at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M.

ICE Assistant Field Office Director William Jepsen, who is based in Albuquerque, led the tour. Cibola County Correctional Center Assistant Warden Betty Judd and Corey A. Price, field office director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations in El Paso, were among those who accompanied the reporters alongside ICE spokespeople Danielle Bennett and Leticia Zamarripa.

The reporters were not allowed to speak with individual detainees and were not granted access to the unit in which detainees are held in solitary confinement. The reporters were also not allowed to bring telephones or recording devices into the facility.

Jepsen showed the reporters “asylum hallway” with five attorney visitation rooms for detainees. There are also two videoconference rooms off the corridor that allow detainees to attend court hearings remotely.

Twenty-seven trans women were in the unit when the reporters toured it.

The detainees sleep in dorm-style bunkbeds that are in rooms without doors that open into a common area with tables and chairs, a television, a microwave, telephones, sinks and showers with curtains on them.

A transgender woman eats inside a unit for trans detainees in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M., on June 6, 2019. (Photo public domain)

The unit also has its own outside recreation area where six detainees were playing volleyball with a male staffer from the Cibola County Correctional Center when the reporters were there.

Detainees stood along the wall as the staffer told the reporters they have planted flowers in a small garden that was a few feet away from them. Other staffers said during the tour the detainees also have access to Zumba classes, an arts and crafts program and classes at the unit’s beauty salon.

A Univision newscast with a story about the Trump administration’s agreement with Mexico to stop migrants from entering the U.S. was on a television in one of the unit’s day rooms during the tour.

Bulletin boards throughout the unit had notices that detailed schedules for laundry and religious services. One flyer had a Kosher food menus that included a lunch with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, canned vegetables, bread or crackers, fresh or canned fruit, Droxie cookies and beverages.

Posters in English and Spanish that read, “ICE has zero-tolerance for sexual abuse” and “Are you detained and separated from your child/children?” were visible throughout the facility.

One poster read, “I have a right to be treated fairly, regardless of my sexual orientation or gender identity.” Signs above the entrance to each unit read, “opposite gender must announce upon entry.”

Reporters also visited a gymnasium with basketball hoops and exercise equipment. Judd said the trans detainees have access to it and a large, outdoor recreation yard with a track and soccer field.

“This affords them the opportunity to come outside each day to get some fresh air,” she said.

The reporters also visited the facility’s medical unit which has exam rooms, dental suites and areas where detainees with Tuberculosis and other comunicable diseases can be isolated.

“We stay busy, but we enjoy what we do,” said Cibola County Correctional Center Health Services Administrator Wendy Baca.

Transgender women in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody get their hair done at a beauty salon inside the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M., on June 6, 2019. (Photo public domain)

Private company operates facility

CoreCivic, a private company that was once known as the Corrections Corporation of America, operates the minimum-security men’s facility that is roughly 80 miles west of Albuquerque in rural Cibola County.

The facility also houses cisgender men who are in the custody of ICE, the U.S. Marshals and Cibola County.

The trans unit opened in 2017 after ICE’s contract with the Santa Ana Jail in Orange County, Calif., which had a unit only for trans detainees, ended. Judd told the reporters the trans unit can house up to 60 detainees at a time.

Wednesday’s took place less than 13 months after Roxsana Hernández, a trans Honduran woman with HIV who had been briefly detained at the Cibola County Correctional Center, died in ICE custody at Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque.

Roxsana Hernández, a transgender Honduran with HIV, died at Lovelace Medical Center in Albuquerque, N.M., on May 25, 2018, while she was in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody. Hernández had been detained at the Cibola County Correctional Center, a privately-owned and operated prison in Milan, N.M. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Alejandra, a prominent trans rights activist from El Salvador who has been in ICE custody since 2017, remains detained at the facility. Nicole García Aguilar, a trans Honduran woman who the U.S. has granted asylum, was released from the Cibola County Correctional Center on Wednesday.

Johana “Joa” Medina Leon, a trans woman from El Salvador, died at an El Paso hospital on June 1, shortly after ICE released her from their custody.

Medina had been detained at the Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral, N.M. A dozen gay men and trans women who were in ICE custody at the same facility earlier this year alleged they suffered abuse while in detention.

The Blade on Tuesday spoke with three trans women from Mexico and El Salvador who were previously detained at the Cibola County Correctional Center.

Johely, who was born in Mexico’s Nayarit state, said during an interview at the offices of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, an Albuquerque-based organization that advocates on behalf of immigrants, she was in ICE custody at the facility from Aug. 19, 2018, to Jan. 25.

Johely told the Blade she did not receive adequate treatment for her Type 2 diabetes and the facility’s medical personnel “do not have the resources to give medications.” Johely said the facility’s staff were “very racist” and “not trained to care for a transgender person.”

Johely and the other two trans women — Ginger, who was released from ICE custody on Monday, and Daniela, who left the facility on June 7, — also complained about the facility’s food.

“We are lucky to leave this place alive,” Johely told the Blade.

From left: Alma Rosa Silva-Banuelos of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project and the Trans [email protected] Coalition with three transgender women — Johely, Ginger and Daniela — at the Santa Fe Dreamers Project’s offices in Albuquerque, N.M., on June 11, 2019. Johely, Ginger and Daniela were all previously in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

ICE officials defend treatment trans detainees

ICE officials have repeatedly defended its treatment of trans people in their custody.

A 2015 memorandum then-ICE Executive Associate Director of Enforcement and Removal Operations Thomas Homan signed requires personnel to allow trans detainees to identify themselves based on their gender identity on data forms. The directive, among other things, also contains guidelines for a “respectful, safe and secure environment” for trans detainees and requires detention facilities to provide them with access to hormone therapy and other trans-specific health care.

Johely, Ginger and Daniela all said they all received hormones while in ICE custody at the Cibola County Correctional Center. Baca told the Blade access to them is determined “between the provider and the patient” and personnel monitor the amount they receive each month.

ACLU of New Mexico Staff Attorney Kristin Greer Love on Tuesday sharply criticized ICE over the treatment of trans women who are in their custody.

“It strains the imagination that ICE can even say out loud that they’re providing adequate medical care when there’s so many documented reports and tragic deaths that were likely preventable in ICE detention,” she told the Blade during an interview at her office in downtown Albuquerque.

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico is among the organizations that advocate for transgender women who are in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Price told the Blade after the tour that ICE’s food standards are “very rigorous.”

Two Cibola County Correctional Center employees with bags of takeout entered the conference room in which Price was speaking to the reporters after the tour, entered their offices and closed the doors behind them. Price also defended the medical care that trans detainees receive while in ICE custody.

“Medical is something we take very, very seriously,” he said.


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D.C. man charged with 2020 anti-gay death threat rearrested

Defendant implicated in three anti-LGBTQ incidents since 2011



shooting, DC Eagle, assault, hate crime, anti-gay attack, police discrimination, sex police, Sisson, gay news, Washington Blade

A D.C. man arrested in August 2020 for allegedly threatening to kill a gay man outside the victim’s apartment in the city’s Adams Morgan neighborhood and who was released while awaiting trial was arrested again two weeks ago for allegedly threatening to kill another man in an unrelated incident.

D.C. Superior Court records show that Jalal Malki, who was 37 at the time of his 2020 arrest on a charge of bias-related attempts to do bodily harm against the gay man, was charged on May 4, 2021 with unlawful entry, simple assault, threats to kidnap and injure a person, and attempted possession of a prohibited weapon against the owner of a vacant house at 4412 Georgia Ave., N.W.

Court charging documents state that Malki was allegedly staying at the house without permission as a squatter. An arrest affidavit filed in court by D.C. police says Malki allegedly threatened to kill the man who owns the house shortly after the man arrived at the house while Malki was inside.

According to the affidavit, Malki walked up to the owner of the house while the owner was sitting in his car after having called police and told him, “If you come back here, I’m going to kill you.” While making that threat Malki displayed what appeared to be a gun in his waistband, but which was later found to be a toy gun, the affidavit says.

Malki then walked back inside the house minutes before police arrived and arrested him. Court records show that similar to the court proceedings following his 2020 arrest for threatening the gay man, a judge in the latest case ordered Malki released while awaiting trial. In both cases, the judge ordered him to stay away from the two men he allegedly threatened to kill.

An arrest affidavit filed by D.C. police in the 2020 case states that Malki allegedly made the threats inside an apartment building where the victim lived on the 2300 block of Champlain Street, N.W. It says Malki was living in a nearby building but often visited the building where the victim lived.

“Victim 1 continued to state during an interview that it was not the first time that Defendant 1 had made threats to him, but this time Defendant 1 stated that if he caught him outside, he would ‘fucking kill him.’” the affidavit says. It quotes the victim as saying during this time Malki repeatedly called the victim a “fucking faggot.”

The affidavit, prepared by the arresting officers, says that after the officers arrested Malki and were leading him to a police transport vehicle to be booked for the arrest, he expressed an “excited utterance” that he was “in disbelief that officers sided with the ‘fucking faggot.’”

Court records show that Malki is scheduled to appear in court on June 4 for a status hearing for both the 2020 arrest and the arrest two weeks ago for allegedly threatening to kill the owner of the house in which police say he was illegally squatting.

Superior Court records show that Malki had been arrested three times between 2011 and 2015 in cases unrelated to the 2021 and 2020 cases for allegedly also making threats of violence against people. Two of the cases appear to be LGBTQ related, but prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office did not list the cases as hate crimes.

In the first of the three cases, filed in July 2011, Malki allegedly shoved a man inside Dupont Circle and threatened to kill him after asking the man why he was wearing a purple shirt.

“Victim 1 believes the assault occurred because Suspect 1 believes Victim 1 is a homosexual,” the police arrest affidavit says.

Court records show prosecutors charged Malki with simple assault and threats to do bodily harm in the case. But the court records show that on Sept. 13, 2011, D.C. Superior Court Judge Stephen F. Eilperin found Malki not guilty on both charges following a non-jury trial.

The online court records do not state why the judge rendered a not guilty verdict. With the courthouse currently closed to the public and the press due to COVID-related restrictions, the Washington Blade couldn’t immediately obtain the records to determine the judge’s reason for the verdict.

In the second case, court records show Malki was arrested by D.C. police outside the Townhouse Tavern bar and restaurant at 1637 R St., N.W. on Nov. 7, 2012 for allegedly threatening one or more people with a knife after employees ordered Malki to leave the establishment for “disorderly behavior.”

At the time, the Townhouse Tavern was located next door to the gay nightclub Cobalt, which before going out of business two years ago, was located at the corner of 17th and R Streets, N.W.

The police arrest affidavit in the case says Malki allegedly pointed a knife in a threatening way at two of the tavern’s employees who blocked his path when he attempted to re-enter the tavern. The affidavit says he was initially charged by D.C. police with assault with a dangerous weapon – knife. Court records, however, show that prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office lowered the charges to two counts of simple assault. The records show that on Jan. 15, 2013, Malki pleaded guilty to the two charges as part of a plea bargain arrangement.

The records show that Judge Marissa Demeo on that same day issued a sentence of 30 days for each of the two charges but suspended all 30 days for both counts. She then sentenced Malki to one year of supervised probation for both charges and ordered that he undergo alcohol and drug testing and undergo treatment if appropriate.

In the third case prior to the 2020 and 2021 cases, court records show Malki was arrested outside the Cobalt gay nightclub on March 14, 2015 on multiple counts of simple assault, attempted assault with a dangerous weapon – knife, possession of a prohibited weapon – knife, and unlawful entry.

The arrest affidavit says an altercation started on the sidewalk outside the bar when for unknown reasons, Malki grabbed a female customer who was outside smoking and attempted to pull her toward him. When her female friend came to her aid, Malki allegedly got “aggressive” by threatening the woman and “removed what appeared to be a knife from an unknown location” and pointed it at the woman’s friend in a threatening way, the affidavit says.

It says a Cobalt employee minutes later ordered Malki to leave the area and he appeared to do so. But others noticed that he walked toward another entrance door to Cobalt and attempted to enter the establishment knowing he had been ordered not to return because of previous problems with his behavior, the affidavit says. When he attempted to push away another employee to force his way into Cobalt, Malki fell to the ground during a scuffle and other employees held him on the ground while someone else called D.C. police.

Court records show that similar to all of Malki’s arrests, a judge released him while awaiting trial and ordered him to stay away from Cobalt and all of those he was charged with threatening and assaulting.

The records show that on Sept. 18, 2015, Malki agreed to a plea bargain offer by prosecutors in which all except two of the charges – attempted possession of a prohibited weapon and simple assault – were dropped. Judge Alfred S. Irving Jr. on Oct. 2, 2015 sentenced Malki to 60 days of incarnation for each of the two charges but suspended all but five days, which he allowed Malki to serve on weekends, the court records show.

The judge ordered that the two five-day jail terms could be served concurrently, meaning just five days total would be served, according to court records. The records also show that Judge Irving sentenced Malki to one year of supervised probation for each of the two counts and ordered that he enter an alcohol treatment program and stay away from Cobalt.

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Biden names civil rights veteran to U.S. Education Dept.

Catherine Lhamon’s portfolio will include LGBTQ rights, sexual misconduct, racial discrimination



Nominee for Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education Catherine Lhamon. (Photo public domain))

The White House announced Thursday that President Joe Biden has nominated Catherine Lhamon to serve as the Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education.

Lhamon currently serves as a Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council for Racial Justice and Equity at the White House, where she manages the President’s equity policy portfolio. She is a former attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU) and served as chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from 2017 to 2021.

She has also served as Legal Affairs Secretary to California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Her portfolio at Education, where she previously served in the same position under former President Barack Obama, will include LGBTQ rights, sexual misconduct and racial discrimination in the nation’s K-12 schools, universities and colleges. Lhamon was Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, to which President Obama nominated her and the Senate confirmed her in 2013.

“I am thrilled that President Biden is nominating Catherine Lhamon to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. Catherine has devoted her career to ensuring equity is at the core of all her work,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement released by his office Thursday.

“She has a strong record of fighting for communities of color and underserved communities, whether as the current Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council, the former chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, or as a civil rights educator at Georgetown University. We are thrilled to have Catherine serving as Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and know she will continue to fight for fairness, equity, and justice for all of America’s students.”

Lhamon has also litigated civil rights cases at National Center for Youth Law, Public Counsel Law Center, and the ACLU Foundation of Southern California.  Lhamon taught federal civil rights appeals at Georgetown University Law Center in the Appellate Litigation Program and clerked for the Honorable William A. Norris on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

“Catherine Lhamon is the right choice to lead the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights at such a critical time for the country and the agency. There is much work to do in order to roll back the harmful policies and legacies of Betsy DeVos, from her attacks on transgender students to her unconscionable revocation of discriminatory discipline guidance and rewrite of Title IX rules,” Adele Kimmel, Director of the Students’ Civil Rights Project at Public Justice told the Blade in an email.

“During her previous tenure in the same job, Catherine embraced equality, enforced Title IX and ensured students had an ally inside the federal government. She will do so again, and the Senate should move to quickly confirm her so she can begin the work of restoring the Department’s commitment to protecting the civil rights and dignity of students and implementing the Biden Administration’s pledge to undo the damage that DeVos has done,” Kimmel added.

Born in Virginia and raised in California, Lhamon graduated from Amherst College and Yale Law School. Lhamon and her husband and two daughters are transitioning between California and Maryland.

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IDAHOBiT events to promote intersectionality, resilience, allyship

HRC president to participate in virtual panel in Canada



(Photo courtesy of the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia committee)


Intersectionality, resilience and allyship are among the themes that this year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia events will highlight.

Dignity Network Canada and the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention on May 17 will hold a virtual panel that will feature Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David, Canadian Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity Executive Director Debbie Owusu-Akyeeah, Kaleidoscope Trust Executive Director Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, COC Nederland Executive Director Marie Ricardo and Rainbow Railroad Executive Director Kimahli Powell. The British High Commission and the Dutch Embassy in Canada have co-sponsored the event.

“We hope that this will be a really interesting and important conversation on intersectionality and transnational solidarity — and what it means for these leaders and their organizations during these times,” reads a description of the event.

The U.N. LGBTI Core Group on May 17 will host a virtual IDAHOBiT event that will focus on ways to develop an “inclusive and diverse post-pandemic world.” The World Bank Group, the International Monetary Fund, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American and Asian Development Banks host a similar IDAHOBiT commemoration.

“In order to heal from the economic, social, and public health dire impact the pandemic has had and still has, every plan of recovery must take into account a human-rights based, intersectional and gender responsive approach that addresses the specific needs of LGBTI persons in order not to leave them further behind,” reads a description of the U.N. LGBTI Core Group event.

Several Russian LGBTQ rights groups on May 17 will hold a “Vaccine for Acceptance” event that seeks to bolster allyship in the country.

Retired South Africa Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron on May 16 will moderate a virtual panel that will focus on religion and anti-LGBTQ violence.

Workplace Pride and the Dutch Embassy in Budapest on May 17 will host a symposium on LGBTQ-inclusive workplaces in Hungary. M.V. Lee Badgett, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts, on the same day will participate in a webinar the U.S. Embassy in Singapore is hosting with Oogachaga, a local LGBTQ advocacy group.

Haver Srbija, a Serbian NGO, on May 15-16 will hold Falafel, a film festival that seeks to build “bridges and promotes Israeli, Jewish and LGBTQI culture and communities” and highlight “various social issues in the context of the fight against prejudice, discrimination, anti-Semitism, homophobia and xenophobia and encourages the audience to develop critical thinking on the issue of these topics.” Proud Lebanon is slated to hold a series of six webinars between May 17-22 that will focus on feminism, LGBTQ rights and other topics.

The National Center for Sexual Education in Cuba will hold a series of virtual forums and other events through the month to commemorate IDAHOBiT.

CENESEX Director Mariela Castro, whose father is former Cuban President Raúl Castro, during a May 4 press conference in Havana said the IDAHOBiT events are part of the process of amending the country’s family code to make it more equitable for LGBTQ Cubans. Mariela Castro said a bill to amend it will be introduced in the Cuban Parliament in July.

“I was able to appreciate that the majority of the population … is in favor of recognizing the rights of LGBTI+ people and especially the rights in the family sphere that include the possibility, the option, of marriage,” said Mariela Castro during the press conference, according to Tremenda Nota, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba.

IDAHOBiT commemorates the World Health Organization’s 1990 decision to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.

This year’s events will take place against the backdrop of a pandemic that continues to exacerbate existing inequalities for LGBTQ people and other vulnerable groups around the world.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in dozens of countries. Violence based on gender identity and sexual orientation remains rampant in the U.S. and throughout the world.

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