U.S. immigration officials announced new guidelines on Monday that will allow transgender women to be housed in women’s immigrant detention facilities, a change long sought by activists. The issue made headlines just last week, when transgender activist Jennicet Gutiérrez interrupted Obama during a speech at the White House, calling for better treatment and fewer deportations of transgender detainees. The new changes were detailed in a 18-page memo and will take effect at facilities over time, as immigration employees are trained under the new system. “We want to give transgender detainees the chance to say, ‘Hey, I’m trans and this is my gender expression, I want you to take that into account,’” said Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, the deputy assistant director for custody programs for ICE. The guidelines will give the agency’s employees the tools and resources to properly house, care, and protect transgender detainees, according to Lorenzen-Strait, who said ICE spent six months developing the guidelines and spoke with trans detainees at length about them. Keren Zwick, managing attorney for NIJC’s LGBT Immigrant Rights Initiative was happy with the announcement but also urged caution. “As with any ICE initiative, the devil is in the details,” Zwick said. “We continue to have significant concern that the implementation of this guidance will be slow, insufficient, and that it will result in hubbing transgender women in remote areas where they cannot have meaningful access to counsel.”
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