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House Democrats renew calls for ICE to release trans, HIV-positive detainees

Letter notes ‘grave concerns’ and ‘deficiencies’ in detention centers

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A group of 30 Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives on Friday called for the release of all transgender people and people with HIV/AIDS who are in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.

“Immigration detention is notoriously dangerous and harmful for transgender immigrants, who are likely to be seeking asylum based on transphobic violence they have already faced, and because of such histories are likely to suffer from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health conditions,” wrote U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and the other members of Congress in a letter they sent to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and acting ICE Director Tae Johnson. “Transgender individuals also are more likely to require specialized medical care including hormone replacement therapy and HIV treatment.”

The letter notes there “are grave concerns regarding ICE safely detaining transgender individuals.”

ICE in 2017 opened a pod at the privately-run Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico that specifically housed trans women. The letter notes it “was plagued by alarming deficiencies in medical care, including ‘hundreds of unanswered requests for medical attention, poor quarantine procedures, and deficient treatment for mental illnesses and other chronic diseases'” that federal inspections documented.

“These deficiencies — which included failures to complete laboratory orders or ensure that HIV-positive individuals were seen by specialists — were so severe as to result in ICE transferring all transgender individuals and others with chronic illness out of the facility,” reads the letter.

“Even outside of this particular housing unit, there is a lack of adequate medical care throughout these detention centers for those with chronic health conditions, and evidence has overwhelmingly shown that those with HIV receive woefully insufficient and inconsistent treatment for their condition,” adds the letter. “HIV requires regular and regimented treatment to be managed, and for those living with HIV, such poor medical care could quickly lead to death or serious health consequences.”

The Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement)

The members of Congress in their letter conclude ICE “is not fully capable of safely and humanely detaining transgender and HIV+ individuals.”

They specifically request Mayorkas and Johnson, among other things, provide monthly statistics on the number of trans women and men and people with HIV/AIDS who are in ICE custody. The members of Congress also ask for information about ICE’s work with non-governmental organizations that focuses on the release of trans detainees and efforts to secure legal representation for them.

“We look forward to working with you on how we can best support LGBTQ individuals in ICE detention,” reads the letter.

Quigley is among the House Democrats who have previously called for ICE to release all trans people in its custody.

More than 100 people marched to the White House on June 23 to demand the Biden administration end the detention of trans people and people with HIV/AIDS in ICE facilities. Immigration Equality, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the Transgender Law Center, the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, the Center for Victims of Torture, Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, Mijente and the National Immigrant Justice Center made the same request in a letter they sent to Mayorkas and Johnson on June 16.

Two trans women — Victoria Arellano and Roxsana Hernández — died while in ICE custody in 2007 and 2018 respectively. Another trans woman, Johana “Joa” Medina León, passed away in 2019, three days after ICE released her from its custody.

Arellano, Hernández and Medina were all living with HIV.

The Washington Blade has reached out to ICE for comment on the members of Congress’ letter.

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Politics

Pete Buttigieg calls out Tucker Carlson over attack

Fox News host mocked transportation secretary over paternity leave

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg (Washington Blade file photo)

Appearing remotely on MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace’s politics program Friday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called out Fox News host Tucker Carlson for the attack on his parental leave.

“This attack is coming from a guy who has yet to explain his apparent approval for the assassination of Harvey Milk, ” Buttigieg said.

During his Thursday evening program Carlson said, “Pete Buttigieg has been on leave from his job since August after adopting a child—paternity leave, they call it—trying to figure out how to breastfeed. No word on how that went. But now he’s back in office as the transportation secretary and he’s deeply amused, he says, to see that dozens of container ships can’t get into this country.”

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National

Biden recognizes National Coming Out Day as time to honor LGBTQ people

White House statement denounces ‘bullying and harassment’

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President Biden recognized Oct. 11 as National Coming Out Day in a statement on Monday calling the occasion a time to celebrate the “courage of LGBTQ+ people who live their lives with pride, create community with open arms and hearts, and showcase the strength of being your authentic self.”

Biden ticked off in the statement the achievements on LGBTQ policy, including signing an executive order on his first day in his office ordering federal agencies to implement the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year against anti-LGBTQ discrimination to the furthest extent possible.

“Despite the extraordinary progress our nation has made, our work to ensure the full promise of equality is not yet done. Anti-LGBTQ+ bills still proliferate in state legislatures,” Biden said. “Bullying and harassment — particularly of young transgender Americans and LGBTQ+ people of color — still abounds, diminishing our national character. We must continue to stand together against these acts of hate, and stand up to protect the rights, opportunities, physical safety, and mental health of LGBTQ+ people everywhere.”

Read Biden’s full statement below:

Statement by President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. on National Coming Out Day

Today, we celebrate National Coming Out Day and the courage of LGBTQ+ people who live their lives with pride, create community with open arms and hearts, and showcase the strength of being your authentic self. Today and every day, I want every member of the LGBTQ+ community to know that you are loved and accepted just the way you are – regardless of whether or not you’ve come out.

My Administration is committed to ensuring that LGBTQ+ people can live openly, proudly, and freely in every corner of our nation. I am proud to lead an Administration with LGBTQ+ officials serving openly at the highest levels of government — and prouder that together we have made historic progress advancing protections and equal opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community. From acting on Day One to prevent and combat discrimination, to enabling all qualified Americans – including transgender Americans – to serve their country in uniform, to defending the human rights of LGBTQ+ people around the world, my Administration has been clear that we will continue to champion the dignity, equality, and wellbeing of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Despite the extraordinary progress our nation has made, our work to ensure the full promise of equality is not yet done. Anti-LGBTQ+ bills still proliferate in state legislatures. Bullying and harassment — particularly of young transgender Americans and LGBTQ+ people of color — still abounds, diminishing our national character. We must continue to stand together against these acts of hate, and stand up to protect the rights, opportunities, physical safety, and mental health of LGBTQ+ people everywhere. From defeating discriminatory bills to passing the Equality Act, we have more work to do to ensure that every American can live free of fear, harassment, and discrimination because of who they are or whom they love.

To LGBTQ+ people across the country, and especially those who are contemplating coming out: know that you are loved for who you are, you are admired for your courage, and you will have a community — and a nation — to welcome you. My Administration will always have your back, and we will continue fighting for the full measure of equality, dignity, and respect you deserve.

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News

Senators to Rachel Levine: Issue guidance on mental health for trans youth

New instructions sought as more than half of trans youth contemplate suicide

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Sen. Chris Murphy (left) is leading the call on Assistant Secretary of Health Rachel Levine to offer guidance on trans health care.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) is leading a group of senators who are urging Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine, the first openly transgender person to win Senate confirmation as a presidential appointee, to issue new guidance on mental health care needs for trans youth.

In a letter dated Sept. 30 and obtained Tuesday by the Washington Blade, the senators make the case current standards are insufficient for trans and gender expansive, or TGE, adolescents, including exploring, non-binary, agender, genderfluid and queer youth.

“Our goal is to help mental health providers offer the best care they can to the nation’s TGE youth without a delay in treatment,” the letter says. “The focus of this request is for the pressing needs of hospital or residential care even as we recognize the need for guidance across all settings of mental health care.”

Specifically, the senators call on the Behavioral Health Coordinating Council, or BHCC, and experts in the field of adolescent trans care to offer guidance on best practices for inpatient mental health care among these youth.

The senators address the letter to Levine, who in addition to being trans has a background in care for adolescent youth, and Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use.

Cited in the letter are findings from the Trevor Project, an organization that supports LGBTQ youth, which determined more than half of trans and non-binary youth seriously contemplated killing themselves in 2020.

“While behavioral health and pediatric organizations have published resources regarding TGE health care, we have heard from hospital providers they are seeking guidance on best practices for serving gender diverse youth in community residential and inpatient mental health settings,” the letter says.

The seven senators who signed the letter along with Murphy are Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

An HHS spokesperson for Levine’s office, in response to the letter, told the Blade: “We have received the letter and will be reviewing it.”

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