HRC: House Judiciary Committee Right to Advance VAWA Without Anti-Transgender Amendments

Today, HRC applauded pro-equality members of the House Judiciary Committee for voting down last-minute, harmful, and unnecessary amendments to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that would have stripped protections of transgender people from violence and given organizations and individuals a license to discriminate against the transgender community.

“It’s shocking that in 2019, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee would use a bill designed to address violence against women as a vehicle to launch a coordinated attack on the LGBTQ community,” said David Stacy, HRC Government Affairs Director. “Protecting people from violence shouldn’t be a partisan issue. These amendments ignore medical expertise and defy common sense. The reality is that trans people are disproportionately victims of violent crime, and they need to be able to access appropriate services. Leaders of hundreds of sexual violence and domestic violence organizations agree that transgender women victims being served alongside other women is appropriate and not a safety issue. We are grateful that pro-equality members of the Judiciary Committee voted down these discriminatory amendments.”

Despite today’s anti-trans efforts by Republican members, protections against violence for the transgender community in prison and other spaces has a considerable bipartisan history. In 2003, President Bush signed the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA), which provided for the development of basic federal protections for the care of transgender people in prison. After six years of study, the Department of Justice adopted regulations fully implementing these protections in 2012. The National PREA Resource Center developed an FAQ on the implementation of these standards, which have made clear that searches of transgender people who are incarcerated should be based on their gender identity and reflect that transgender prisoners are more than nine times more likely to be targeted for sexual abuse or assault.

Last year, HRC called out the Trump-Pence White House’s blatantly undermining Obama-era protections for transgender prisoners when they ordered the Bureau of Prisons to use “biological sex” in determining how transgender prisoners are assigned housing, putting them at significant risk of sexual abuse, assault, and other types of discrimination.

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HRC Sends Expanded FOIA Request to ICE & CBP for Records of Treatment of Trans Detainees

HRC sent expanded Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the U.S.  Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) for the release of any and all records, including but not limited to letters, memos, emails, text messages, phone records, health reports, and other documents regarding any transgender detainees in ICE custody between January 21, 2017 and the present, as well as policies and procedures that guide treatment of transgender people in ICE custody.  

This is a follow-up to an earlier FOIA request by HRC in July for all records related to the death of Roxana Hernández, a transgender woman, while in the custody of ICE and CBP.

Hernández reached the United States border on May 9, 2018, seeking asylum after fleeing Honduras due to the violence and discrimination she experienced based on her gender identity. She was held for five days by CBP before being processed into the United States and put into ICE custody in San Diego. She was transferred again to another facility three days later on May 16 before her admission to a nearby hospital on May 17. She passed away on May 25. On May 31, HRC called on ICE to conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances of Hernandez’s death.

“The new information released regarding Roxana Hernández’s death is both tragic and deeply disturbing,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs. “According to both eyewitness accounts and the forensic examiner, Hernández was denied medical treatment for several days, all while suffering severe symptoms that evidently contributed to her worsening condition. Moreover, we are horrified to learn that Hernández’s body showed signs of physical abuse, including beating or kicking across her torso and being tightly handcuffed for an extensive length of time. Despite these shocking revelations, ICE officials have yet to comment on the specifics of the autopsy and refuse to provide further details regarding her death and detainment. HRC joins advocates, including efforts led by the Transgender Law Center, in calling for the full release in all records related to this tragedy to ensure those responsible for these cruel and fatal acts are brought to justice.”

A report released in 2016 by Human Rights Watch detailed the experiences of 28 transgender women who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border between 2011 and 2015, more than of whom were held in men’s facilities at some point in their detention. Others reported being held in solitary confinement, allegedly for their own protection, while many reported experiencing sexual assault and other forms of violence while in detention.

According to information provided by the Department in response to a request by Rep. Kathleen Rice, LGBTQ immigrants are detained twice as long as other immigrants and also face lengthy stays in solitary confinement despite ICE regulations that stipulate its use as a last resort. ICE also reported to Representative Rice that LGBTQ people accounted for only .14 percent of the people detained by ICE in 2017, but made up 12 percent of reported sexual assault and abuse cases.

The Human Rights Campaign stands with coalition partners in demanding the humane treatment of all undocumented immigrants and will not rest while LGBTQ migrants are subjected to horrific treatment based on their sexuality and gender identity.

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HRC Sends FOIA Request to Justice Department Regarding Creation of “Religious Liberty Task Force”

Today, HRC sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Department of Justice (DOJ) calling for the release of all records related to the so-called “Religious Liberty Task Force” announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions on July 30, 2018. HRC is demanding transparency from the DOJ, which has not provided details publicly on the activities of the task force, including how much it is spending, what it’s mandate and scope is, and who is on it.

Sessions announced the creation of the task force on July 30th at the U.S. Department of Justice standing alongside the anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and their client, a Colorado baker who refused to serve a gay couple in violation of the state’s nondiscrimination law. It will be co-chaired by Acting Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio, who was an attorney in 2010 for supporters of Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban, and Beth Williams, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy.

The FOIA request was sent ahead of Sessions’ speech tomorrow at the ADF Summit on Religious Liberty.

“The American people deserve transparency about how much taxpayer money the DOJ is spending on this discriminatory so-called “task force,” said David Stacy, HRC Government Affairs Director. “We also deserve to know: who is on this task force? What is the scope of its mandate? Was this proposed by ADF or other anti-LGBTQ groups? It is important that the American people understand the process through which this task force was created and the involvement of anti-LGBTQ organizations like the Alliance Defending Freedom.”

This task force is the latest effort in an 18-month campaign by the Trump-Administration to license discrimination against LGBTQ people for so-called ‘religious’ reasons. Last year, Donald Trump issued an Executive Order directing Jeff Sessions to look across the federal government and assess ways in which the administration could license discrimination at government agencies. In January, the Department of Health and Human Services announced the creation of a so-called “Conscience” Division, empowering health care providers to discriminate against LGBTQ people. The Trump Administration has also proposed an accompanying rule that could permit health care providers–doctors, nurses, and even non medical support staff like receptionists–to deny even potentially life-saving care to LGBTQ people, women, and other vulnerable communities on the basis of the worker’s personal beliefs.

HRC has been chronicling the Trump-Pence Administration’s onslaught of attacks on the LGBTQ community here: hrc.org/trump.

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