Tuesday, September 30, 2014
With the unprecedented number of children heading to the U.S.-Mexico border to escape unrest and mistreatment in their own nations, there has been an increased risk of abuse identified once they are in the U.S. immigration system. Young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, or LGBT, are particularly vulnerable and report physical and verbal abuse at a rate higher than other groups, as well as numbers disproportionate to the children in foster care and shelter care as a whole.
An issue brief released by the Center for American Progress finds that LGBT youth are at risk of being harassed in their home countries and en route to the United States and at greater risk while in custody than non-LGBT youth. It also shows how existing laws and policies could better protect the most vulnerable among an already exceedingly vulnerable population of unaccompanied children.
“Most unaccompanied children who undertake the difficult and dangerous trek to the United States from countries in Central America do so to escape something worse back home,” said Sharita Gruberg, co-author of the brief and a Policy Analyst for the LGBT Immigration Project at CAP. “For those who identify as LGBT, the abuses are particularly stark and unfortunately do not end once they reach the U.S. border. We have laws and policies in place to protect people from abuse while in government facilities, as well as nondiscrimination policies that should be working to prevent this from happening to any one community. It is time for these policies to work for members of the vulnerable LGBT community, who are risking their lives to come to the United States only to face similar physical and verbal abuse in the very country that should be helping them.”
The brief suggests using the Prison Rape Elimination Act, or PREA, and various other state nondiscrimination policies as a model for treatment of LGBT youth in facilities contracted by the Office of Refugee Resettlement, or ORR. Though they are required by law to implement PREA, they have not done so. Run as part of the Department of Health and Human Services, ORR oversees private facilities ranging from shelters, group homes, foster care homes, staff secure facilities, and secure facilities such as juvenile detention centers. Most LGBT youth report some sort of verbal or physical abuse in foster care facilities, and stories of discrimination and expulsion from these facilities are not uncommon.
Click here to read the brief.