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ICE’s Detention Is a Women’s Rights Issue


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The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE, is an agency formed by the U.S. Homeland Security. It was established in 2003, after the events of September 11 in 2001, with the main objective of protecting the United States from illegal immigration as well as cross-border crime that could potentially threaten country’s security and safety. While the intentions when forming ICE were good, ICE’s operating detention centers, detaining immigrants placed in the removal proceedings, have become a human rights issue, especially affecting women.


As of February 19, 2021, over 14,000 immigrants and asylum-seekers have been reported in the ICE detention centers. A lot of these people are women, seeking protection from violence and persecution after arriving at the US southern borders. Unfortunately, instead of providing that needed protection, detention centers create an incredibly unsafe environment which abuses fundamental human rights on a daily basis. In the most recent report from 2018, ICE reported 374 formal accusations of sexual assault and 14,700 complaints alleging sexual and physical abuse.


Abuses of women’s health and rights primarily pertain to women of color and transgender women. Black and brown people comprise the majority of detainees, facing additional discrimination by ICE. As it turned out in 2020, one of the private-owned ICE detention centers was forcing sterilization procedures on immigrant women. The highest rate of sterilizations was performed on marginalized populations, especially on Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people. Furthermore, Amnesty International has documented cases of transgender women experiencing high rates of physical, verbal and sexual violence. They are confined to solitary cells against their will, as well as held in all-male facilities based on their biological sex.


One of the biggest issues is the lack of adequate healthcare in detention centers. There have been many cases of pregnant women being dehumanized and mistreated through being denied emergency medical services and access to abortion in situations of extreme pain and heavy bleading. Women who should receive necessary services in maternal and mental health, experience trauma and gender-based violence instead.


The medical neglect, discrimination, and abuse taking place daily in ICE’s detention centers is truly horryfying. People seeking asylum and protection are dehumanized through being stripped of their fundamental rights. With Biden’s plan of ending for-profit detention centers and releasing children with their parents from ICE detention, hopefully the necessary actions will be taken soon.