Democrats propose bill to protect LGBTQ+ immigrants: ‘Restore dignity and humanity’

immigration detention protest

A Democratic bill to protect LGBTQ+ immigrants from detention by qualifying them as “vulnerable persons” has been proposed in a bid to overhaul a “broken immigration system”.

The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act was reintroduced by the Democrats in the House and Senate on Thursday (20 April), aiming to “restore humanity and dignity to the immigration system”. 

In an effort to transform the US immigration system into something more humane, the bill proposes the repeal of all mandatory detention, making it easier to release immigrants who fall under the “vulnerable person” category, which requires 11 qualifications. 

The qualifications include being under 21, pregnant, identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or intersex, having mental or physical illness or disability, limited English language proficiency, or being a survivor of torture or gender-based violence. 

The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act was first introduced in 2021 and sought to end the use of private detention facilities and ban cruel solitary confinement for immigrants.

The bill states that immigrants who are “vulnerable persons or primary caregivers” may not be detained “unless the secretary of Homeland Security demonstrates … that it is unreasonable or not practicable to place the alien in a community-based supervision program”.

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The bill was reintroduced by Washington representative Pramila Jayapal, New Jersey senator Cory Booker and Washington representative Adam Smith. It seeks to “protect the basic rights of immigrants detained in the United States,” Brooker said, as reported by the Washington Examiner. 

Taking to Twitter on Thursday, Smith said that the bill “would overhaul our broken immigration system to ensure it is humane and just”.

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He added: “This is a crucial step to bringing due process back to our immigration system.”

On that same date, Jayapal also posted on Twitter: “It’s time to end the use of private detention facilities, prohibit family detention, and restore due process, oversight and accountability.” 

Hillary Li, policy counsel at Detention Watch Network, said in a statement: “For years, people in detention, their loved ones and communities have exposed system-wide abuse and negligence in immigration detention, demanding to free people and shut ICE [US Immigration and Customs Enforcement] facilities down for good. 

“Detained Immigrants Act responds to these community calls to address this inhumane, discriminatory, and unnecessary system.”

The bill has been sponsored by dozens of Democrats in the House and the Senate, including congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – also known as AOC – who in February this year, blasted anti-LGBTQ+ pundit Libs of TikTok and slammed Twitter’s refusal to permanently suspend the account.

In 2020, a federal lawsuit demanded that ICE release all trans immigrants from custody as they were deemed more susceptible to COVID-19, with the lawsuit calling its detention facilities “death traps”. 

One of the organisations behind the lawsuit, the Transgender Law Center (TLC), claimed that at least 32 ICE detention centres had seen coronavirus outbreaks since March in 2020, with 250 publicly reported cases of the disease among detainees and staff members.

The Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act is co-sponsored by over 100 Congressional representatives and has been endorsed by the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

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