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House Democrats want ICE to release all transgender detainees, saying they're 'particularly vulnerable' to abuse

They say ICE is 'legally obligated' to release them

A common area and cell room doors are seen inside the Caroline Detention Facility in Bowling Green, Virginia, on Aug. 13, 2018. (SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

House Democrats will call on Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release all transgender detainees, according to a copy of a letter obtained by The Hill, because those migrants are "particularly vulnerable" to various forms of abuse.

The initiative to call for transgender migrant detainees to be released is led by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), who believes ICE is legally obligated to release them.

"Transgender migrants and asylum-seekers are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment, solitary confinement, physical assault, and medical neglect," the letter reads. "These inhumane conditions and systematic abuses are evidenced in countless reports and accounts by formally detained people."

In the letter, Democrats point to a 2015 ICE memo that addresses "Further Guidance Regarding the Care of Transgender Detainees." In the memo, ICE's Enforcement and Removal Operations division is told to consider initially placing transgender detainees in facilities specifically equipped to accommodate transgender people.

It also cites the 2020 Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill, which directs ICE to limit the detention of individuals to facilities like the ones mentioned in the 2015 memo.

"As far as we are aware, no facility has ever entered into a contract modification pursuant to the 2015 memo, which means that by the plain text of this language ICE is now legally obligated to immediately release every transgender person in detention," Quigley wrote.

There are between 15,000 and 50,000 transgender illegal immigrants living in the U.S., according to an estimate from the National Center for Transgender Equality, and numerous transgender people seek asylum in the United States due to increased threat of persecution or death in their home countries.

Quigley said ICE can choose to either release these transgender detainees into the community or transfer them into "supervised alternative-to-detention programming." The letter, according to Quigley, has a Friday deadline for lawmakers to sign on to the letter.

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