Allegations of Harassment and Abuse of Gay and Transgender Migrants in Immigrant Detention

By Shani Saxon Mar 26, 2019

An immigrant facility in New Mexico is under fire for what advocates call "rampant sexual harassment, discrimination and abuse" of gay and transgender migrants, NBC News reports. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) drafted a letter to immigration authorities and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Otero County Processing Center in Chaparral stating that migrants who complained of mistreatment were often threatened with solitary confinement. The letter also alleges that gay migrants who spoke out were punished by being forced to live in barracks with heterosexual men. 

A representative for Otero denied all accusations in a statement released to NBC. The organization insists that employees follow guidelines dictated by ICE for transgender detainees. "[We are] not aware of any incidents at the facility that even come close to these allegations," the statement read. "And 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, and no evidence of retaliation and improper use of solitary confinement."

The letter of complaint references 12 asylum seekers who fled their home countries for fear of persecution. One 20-year old gay man from Honduras said he was "repeatedly groped" and asked to exchange sex for food while at Otero. The letter also states guards allegedly offered to help bathe transgender women. Additionally, medical staff are accused of refusing to provide hormone treatments for three women.

As of press time, ICE has not responded directly to the ACLU’s letter of complaint.