Clement Lee, an American attorney who directly represents individual clients and advocates for detention policy reform for LGBT and HIV positive immigrants writes about a recent case of his.
In immigration detention, my transgender client Raimunda (not her real name) faced a bleak choice: she could remain housed with other detainees in the male “general population,” where she had twice been attacked by other detainees simply for being a transgender woman or she could be placed in closely-monitored “protective custody” which was described to her as a “non-punitive status in which restricted conditions of confinement are required only to ensure [her] safety.”
Fearful for her safety, Raimunda chose “protective custody.”
There, she was housed with mentally ill detainees and accused sex offenders. Her telephone and recreational privileges were limited to what she could fit within an hour each day. At times, she was simply denied the use of the telephone at all. Distressed at her new isolation and terrified by her inability to call acquaintances to collect crucial evidence for her asylum case, she requested to be placed back in general housing. However, detention authorities denied her request and continued her involuntary placement in protective custody. Only after Immigration Equality intervened on her behalf did detention authorities honor her request to be re-housed in the general population.
Altogether, Raimunda spent about two and a half months in the euphemistically named “Close Custody Special Housing Unit.”