Staff at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) center in New Mexico allegedly subjected gay and trans people to ‘rampant’ abuse.
Advocates and lawyers claimed in a letter yesterday (25 March) that 12 queer migrants at the Otero County Processing Center were threatened and subjected to solitary confinement after complaining about conditions. Or punished for simply sharing coffee.
Staff allegedly reassigned the trans women to barracks with heterosexual men – some of whom previously sexually harassed them – as a form of retaliation.
The letter documents the experiences of 12 LGBTI asylum seekers who fled persecution in their home countries.
The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico sent the letter to immigration authorities and the warden of Otero County Processing Center.
Moreover, it demanded a response by 29 March.
NBC reported a news release accompanying the letter detailed a man repeatedly groped. Guards asked him to perform sexual favors in exchange for food.
‘When I complained, I was thrown into solitary confinement for five days and threatened with further punishment if I complained again,’ he said, according to the release.
‘Rampant sexual harassment’
Guards allegedly interrupted showers and offered to help trans women bathe. Medical staff refused to provide hormones for three trans women.
Furthermore, guards subjected the people to ‘rampant sexual harassment, discrimination, and abuse,’ according to the letter.
It said the guards barked ‘transphobic commands like “Walk like a man! You better sit like a man!”
‘They force transgender women to bathe and sleep in units with men who sexually harass and threaten them.’
In addition, the guards do not ‘address’ the homophobic and transphobic ‘slurs from other detained people.’
Gay Star News contacted the ICE for comment.
However, a spokerperson for Management & Training Corporation, the private company that operates Otero, told NBC they are ‘not aware’ of these incidents.
‘Any implication that management was aware of any harassment or discrimination against transgender individuals or any other individuals is not true.
‘We have no evidence of rampant sexual harassment, discrimination, abuse, denying proper medical care to transgender detainees.
There is, ‘no evidence of retaliation and improper use of solitary confinement.’
The 1,000 bed facility 30 miles north of the border city is the only remaining immigration detention center in New Mexico.
While there used to be a detention facility in Albuquerque, it is no longer in use of the ICE.