by Fred Kuhr
In a historic first, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) allowed reporters to see first-hand the unit at privately-run immigrant detention center specially set up for transgender women in custody. And a member of the LGBTQ press was included in the media group.
|Michael K. Lavers
Michael K. Lavers, international editor of the Washington Blade, was invited alongside reporters from the Associated Press, Univision and El Paso, Texas, TV station KFOX. They toured the unit, located at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M., (80 miles west of Albuquerque) on June 12.
The reporters were accompanied by at least six officials from ICE and the local correctional system.
According to Lavers’ reporting, 27 trans women were in the unit on the day of the tour.
The trans unit was opened in 2017, according to the Blade, after ICE’s contract with the Santa Ana Jail in Orange County, Calif., which had a similar united for trans detainees, ended. Up to 60 detainees can be held at the current facility at any one time.
In a June 21 story in the Blade, Lavers details the unit’s attorney visitation rooms, videoconference rooms, sleeping areas with bunkbeds, an outdoor recreation area, a medical unite, and a beauty salon.
Posters, in both English and Spanish, carried messages such as “ICE has zero-tolerance for sexual abuse” and “I have a right to be treated fairly, regardless of my sexual orientation or gender identity.”
In a follow-up story published July 15, Lavers reports that the Blade was provided with a copy of a handwritten letter (in Spanish) signed by 29 transgender women being held at the facility (as of the letter’s date of June 26). The letter was given to the Blade by Phoenix-based Trans Queer Pueblo, which advocates for the rights of undocumented LGBTQ immigrants.
According to Lavers, the letter says there is not “adequate” medical attention to “treat people with disabilities, people with HIV, skin infections” and there is “a lack of medications for many” trans women. The letter also states Cibola County Correctional Center staffers “psychologically and verbally” mistreat them. “We are afraid of reprisals, but [we are] more afraid to be in this situation,” the letter states.
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