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No notice in transfer of immigrant women

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A group of undocumented transgender women being housed in a unit at the Cibola County Correctional Center were recently transferred to an out-of-state facility, without any advance notice or explanation offered to the women, according to Allegra Love, an attorney and director of the Santa Fe Dreamers Project.

The organization has been providing free legal services to the women held in what she called the “Trans Pod” at the jail, located in Milan, west of Grants, which has a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

The move impedes that legal assistance, Love said.

“Since the Trans Pod opened in the fall of 2017, we’ve been helping them bond out of jail, getting them paroled out, and helping them with their case files so they can get released as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Love said. “For some women, that’s a couple of months, and for some it’s a couple of years.”

On Jan. 21, a group of transgender women were removed from the jail, Love said. Clients and contacts from other organizations working with the women told her they believed the women were taken to an ICE facility in Aurora, Colorado.

“We asked for confirmation from the ICE field office here and got nothing,” she said. Stories continued to circulate that another transfer of women was to take place soon, she said.

The Trans Pod at the Cibola County jail can accommodate up to 60 women, Love said, adding that it was usually never more than half full, so space was likely not an issue.

“Maybe they want them to be closer to medical care. That would be a really good reason. But it’s also been suggested that they want to take them out of the scope of our services. Without ICE being transparent, we can only speculate.”

ICE has acknowledged that transgender women are vulnerable and detaining them is risky, Love said. “They can’t be held in a women’s detention facility, but there are undeniable risks in keeping them with an all male population. So they have this isolated unit where they can receive special medical attention, and special protection.”

But conditions in the Trans Pod are “extremely cruel and abusive, with sub-par medical standards, and women being thrown into solitary confinement all the time,” Love maintained.

Calls to the Cibola County Correctional Center were referred to ICE spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa, who forwarded the inquiry to other officials within the Department of Homeland Security.

On Tuesday the Journal received an email response that did not specifically mention the transgender women or the facility in Aurora: “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) transferred 27 detainees previously housed at the Cibola County Correctional Center (CCCC) last week to other facilities throughout the country. ICE is currently working with its contractor to assess and improve the quality of long-term health care management at the CCCC.

“In the interim, ICE has found available bed space in other facilities with existing resources to better manage the needs of certain detainees requiring continuous medical case management.

“ICE will continue to work with the facility operators to ensure those in our custody at the CCCC reside in a safe, secure, humane environment with access to necessary health care.”

Although the women who were transferred out of state may no longer have ready access to legal assistance from the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, Love said, “fortunately we have strong partnerships with other legal services organizations in Colorado.”

However, it’s not clear that the women were transferred to a facility in Colorado.

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