November 18, 2019 at 7:12 am EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Jayapal reiterates call for Stephen Miller’s resignation at Victory Fund conference
U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) (Photo courtesy of Twitter)

U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) on Saturday once again called for White House advisor Stephen Miller to resign.

“We do not believe Stephen Miller should be in the White House advising this president,” said Jayapal as she spoke during a panel on LGBTQ immigration at the LGBTQ Victory Fund’s annual International LGBTQ Leaders Conference that took place at the JW Marriott Hotel in downtown D.C.

The Southern Poverty Law Center last week published a series of emails Miller sent to Breitbart News before the 2016 presidential election that “showcase the extremist, anti-immigrant ideology that undergirds the policies he has helped create as an architect of Donald Trump’s presidency.” Jayapal in her remarks noted the Congressional Progressive, Black, Hispanic and Asian Pacific American Caucuses have all called for Miller’s resignation.

“It’s clearer than ever that Stephen Miller is a far-right white nationalist with a racist and xenophobic worldview,” said Jayapal in a Nov. 14 statement alongside U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) and Judy Chu (D-Calif.) “His beliefs are appalling, indefensible and completely at odds with public service.”

Trans woman died in ICE custody in 2018

The separation of immigrant children from their parents and the “remain in Mexico” program that has forced more than 40,000 migrants to remain in Mexico to await the processing of their asylum claims are among the most controversial aspects of the Trump administration’s overall immigration policy. Activists have also sharply criticized U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement over the treatment of LGBTQ migrants who are in their custody.

Roxsana Hernández, a transgender Honduran woman with HIV, died at a hospital in Albuquerque, N.M., on May 25, 2018, while in ICE custody. Hernández was detained at Cibola County Detention Center, a facility in Milan, N.M., that CoreCivic, a private company once known as Corrections Corporation of America, operates.

The Transgender Law Center has filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of Hernández’s family. U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) earlier this month demanded Attorney General William Barr to appoint a special counsel to investigate why ICE allowed personnel at the Cibola County Correctional Center to delete surveillance video that relates to Hernández’s case.

Johana “Joa” Medina León, a trans woman from El Salvador, on June 1, 2019, died at a hospital in El Paso, Texas, after ICE released her from its custody. Medina had previously been detained at the Otero County Processing Center, a detention facility in Chaparral, N.M., that Management and Training Corporation, another private company, operates.

ICE in 2017 opened a unit for trans detainees at the Cibola County Correctional Center.

Trans Queer Pueblo, a Phoenix-based group that advocates on behalf of undocumented LGBTQ immigrants, in June received a letter from 29 trans women detained at the privately-run detention facility who complained about inadequate medical care and mistreatment from staff. A dozen gay men and trans women earlier this year said they suffered “rampant sexual harassment, discrimination and abuse at the Otero County Processing Center.

The House Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee, of which Jayapal is vice chair, in September held a hearing on conditions inside ICE detention centers. Raiza Daniela Hernández, a trans activist from El Salvador who said she suffered anti-LGBTQ discrimination while detained at the Otay Mesa Detention Center, a CoreCivic-run ICE facility in San Diego in 2017, and Denis Davydov, a gay man with HIV from Russia who claims he contracted Hepatitis A while in ICE custody at the Krome Detention Center in Miami in 2017, both testified.

An immigration judge in September granted asylum to Yariel Valdés González, a Washington Blade contributor who suffered persecution in his native Cuba because he is a journalist. ICE last month appealed the ruling, and Valdés remains detained at the Bossier Parish Medium Security Facility in Plain Dealing, La.  

“These LGBTQ folks have had a treacherous life, a treacherous life and a treacherous journey to make and they make their journey to our border hoping to be met with compassion and respect for their humanity,” said Jayapal at the Victory Fund conference. “And yet they are placed into these incarceration centers at the border.”

Leche Merchant, a transgender woman from the Mexican state of Guerrero, was in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at the Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico for more than two years. She was released from the facility on July 15, 2019, and arrived at a shelter in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, that is run by Respetttrans Chihuahua, a trans advocacy group in Mexico’s Chihuahua state, the following day. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Japayal in April introduced the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act that, among other things, end the use of private prisons and jails as immigrant detention centers and require the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, to issue a public report on a detainee’s death within 60 days. Japayal on Saturday said her measure now has 138 co-sponsors.

“We are really making headway on what is a dramatic proposal … to transform immigrant incarceration in this country,” she said.

The Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M., has a unit specifically for transgender women who are in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The facility is run by CoreCivic, a private company once known as Corrections Corporation of America. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

Jayapal — along with U.S. Reps. Jesús “Chuy” García (D-Ill.) and Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) — on Oct. 30 introduced the New Deal for New Americans Act, a bill that seeks to further integrate immigrants in the U.S. Japayal on Saturday also defended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that has allowed hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. and obtain work permits.

The Trump administration in 2017 announced it would end DACA, which the Obama White House enacted in 2012. The U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 12 heard oral arguments in a case that could determine DACA’s future.

“These Dreamers, including LGBTQ dreamers, have made the case themselves with their resilience and their courage,” said Jayapal.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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