Thursday, January 15, 2015

Transgender Asylum Seeker in Immigration Detention Demands Release After Facing Sexual Abuse

Posted By on Thu, Jan 15, 2015 at 11:00 AM

Nicoll Hernández-Polanco is a Guatemalan transgender woman who is currently detained in an all-male Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Florence. In October 2014, she turned herself in to border agents and right away requested asylum after fleeing her native country following years of sexual and physical violence and harassment for being transgender.

From a press release sent by Raúl Alcaraz Ochoa of Mariposas Sin Fronteras and Olga Tomchin of the Transgender Law Center:
In her first month in detention, Nicoll was patted down 6-8 times a day by male guards, who Nicoll reported would grope her breasts and buttocks, make offensive sexual comments and gestures, and sometimes pull her hair. In addition to physically harassing Nicoll, ICE staff routinely verbally abuse her because of her gender identity. Nicoll has informed Tucson-based LGBTQ group Mariposas Sin Fronteras that she has been called slurs including “f***ing gay,” “bitch,” and “the woman with balls” in front of other detainees. Witnesses have heard a female guard refer repeatedly to Nicoll as “it”. Nicoll was recently punished by ICE for standing up for her human dignity by being placed in solitary confinement for "insolence."
Since she's in an all-male detention center—because she was assigned the sex male at birth, she is "legally" she's male—Nicoll is required to be in that facility and thus shower with men. She was sexually assaulted in December, according to the press release, and although an investigation allegedly took place, the results of that investigation are unknown. 

"What Nicoll is facing at the detention center is part of the larger reality of violence that immigrant trans women of color face in our society at large," said Isa Noyola, program manager at the Transgender Law Center. "Our communities are rallying together demanding her release and an end to immigration detention for all transgender women."

The release says that ICE refuses to release Nicoll, because "her past deportations when she was an unaccompanied minor...render her a priority for detention under (President Barack Obama's) recent immigration executive action announcement," the release said.

Transgender Law Center and other LGBTQ/immigrant rights groups have created a petition asking ICE to release Nicoll immediately:

ICE is no stranger to allegations of abuse, especially against LGBTQ detainees. The accusations are overflowing and it's gotten to the point where ICE can't hide from them anymore.

From the release:
LGBTQ people and especially transgender women of color are disproportionately excluded from the President’s relief. Additionally, a large coalition of over 115 LGBTQ, immigrant rights, and allied organizations called on the White House last month to immediately release LGBTQ people like Nicoll from immigration detention due to the dangerous conditions they face in detention.
I contacted an ICE spokesperson, and I'm waiting for a response to the allegations.

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