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Heartland Alliance’s National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) has filed complaints on behalf of four gay and transgender individuals who were abused while in immigration detention. Since April 2011, NIJC has submitted to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) a total of 17 complaints of inhumane treatment of sexual minorities.

“These latest reports highlight that abuse of vulnerable populations remains a systemic, pervasive problem in the immigration detention system,” said NIJC Executive Director Mary Meg McCarthy. “It is unlawful for the U.S. government to detain individuals that it cannot protect.”

While CRCL has begun an investigation of the initial multi-individual complaint NIJC filed in April, gay and transgender individuals continue to suffer from discrimination, misuse of segregation, denial of medical treatment, and physical and sexual abuse. For example, a man who is HIV positive has not received HIV treatment while in DHS custody. Another complaint tells of a transgender individual who was arbitrarily held in solitary confinement for 49 days.

Members of Congress have requested that DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano and Attorney General Eric Holder investigate these allegations and extend the provisions of the Prison Rape Elimination Act to immigrants in detention.

NIJC calls on the administration to end punitive detention practices and to hold individuals accountable for violations committed against detained immigrants.