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New Immigration Detention Center To Have Separate Units For Transgender Women


Immigration and Customs Enforcement will begin sending transgender detainees to Alvarado, Texas later this year.

Fusion has confirmed that the Prairieland Detention Center, due to open in November, will have a new facility for transgender women. According to Carl Rusnok, a spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the center will have 36 beds for undocumented trans detainees, and will house 700 people overall. ICE estimates that on any given night, they house roughly 65 trans women in their custody.

The new detention center, based in Alvarado, Texas, will provide the agency's "most advanced" care guidelines for trans people, including an individualized detention plan "covering items such as searches, clothing options, hygiene practices, medical care, and housing assignments," Rusnok said.

But immigration activists say any new detention center hurts undocumented people. They want ICE to release LGBT detainees, especially trans women who are even more at risk for physical and sexual assault while in custody. According to 2014's National Inmate Survey, 34.6 percent of transgender individuals in prison and 34 percent in jails reported being sexually assaulted. Fusion has also reported that 80 percent of women who migrate to the United States from Central America are assaulted along their journey. Others found that many of the trans women that end up in facilities have presented themselves at ports of entry to gain asylum, but must be detained until a judge can rule on their case.

Thus a better alternative to the detention centers, activists say, would be community housing groups that specialize in care for trans women.

"[ICE] is talking about the new detention center as if they are providing as a service to the community, and they're not," Isa Noyola, the program director at the Transgender Law Center, told Fusion.

Currently, ICE's other custody unit for trans women is located in the Santa Ana city jail, but the city is moving to end its contract with ICE, according to the Orange County Register. Prairieland will be operated and managed by Emerald Correctional Management, a private prison corporation that manages five additional facilities across the country. ICE did not release estimates for the number of trans women being held in other facilities around the country.

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