Transgender woman Nicoll Hernandez-Polanco spent 6 months in hell as an Ice Detainee at a male facility in Arizona. She endured being searched by guards 6 times a day who groped her breasts and buttocks, made offensive sexual comments and gestures and pulled her hair. They even knowingly locked her up with the same man who raped her.
Her only crime was asking for sanctuary from the murderous transphobia of her country.
Source Transgender Law Center Nicoll presented herself to border patrol agents at the United States border in October 2014 and immediately requested asylum after suffering nearly a decade of sexual and physical violence in Guatemala and Mexico because of her gender identity. Instead of finding safety, Nicoll has experienced continual sexual harassment and abuse at the hands of ICE staff and other detained immigrants for being a transgender woman.
In her first month as a ICE detainee, Nicoll was patted down 6-8 times a day by male guards, who Nicoll reported would grope her breasts and buttocks, make offensive sexual comments and gestures, and sometimes pull her hair. In addition to physically harassing Nicoll, ICE staff routinely verbally abuse her because of her gender identity. Nicoll has informed her attorneys that she has been called slurs including “f***ing gay,” “bitch,” and “the woman with balls” in front of other detainees. Her attorneys witnessed a female guard refer repeatedly to Nicoll as “it”. Nicoll was recently punished by ICE for standing up for her human dignity by being placed in solitary confinement for “insolence.”
In addition to the harassment of the guards, Nicoll is also particularly vulnerable to abuse from male detainees. Nicoll is required to shower with, use the restroom with, and sleep in the same room as men. As a result, in early December, Nicoll was sexually assaulted by another detained immigrant. Despite immediately filing a complaint that facility staff has purportedly been investigating, the conclusions of any investigation have not been disclosed to Nicoll. Nicoll also stated that even though her attacker was initially separated from her, the two were later housed in the same sleeping unit temporarily
Nicoll Hernandez-Polanco spent about six months in a Department of Homeland Security all-male detention center in Florence before being granted asylum in April telling Arizona public radio.
“I was surprised,” she said. “I’m proud that I fought for my case and for the rights of those in the transgender community.”
Listen to her full interview here.
President Obama issued this statement on IDAHOT:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 16, 2015
Statement by the President on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia
Michelle and I join our fellow Americans and others around the world in commemorating the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia tomorrow, May 17. We take this opportunity to reaffirm that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights are human rights, to celebrate the dignity of every person, and to underscore that all people deserve to live free from fear, violence, and discrimination, regardless of who they are or whom they love.
We work toward this goal every day. Here at home, we are working to end bias-motivated violence, combat discrimination in the workplace, and address the specific needs of transgender persons. Overseas, I am proud of the steps that the United States has taken to prioritize the protection and promotion of LGBT rights in our diplomacy and global outreach.
There is much more to do, and this fight for equality will not be won in a day. But we will keep working, at home and abroad, and we will keep fighting, for however long it takes until we are all able to live free and equal in dignity and rights.