FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 3, 2020

SF PUBLIC DEFENDERS FILE RESTRAINING ORDER AGAINST I.C.E. FOR CHRISTMAS NIGHT TRANSFER OF TRANSGENDER IMMIGRANT DETAINEE TO TEXAS, WHERE SHE IS BEING HELD IN ISOLATION

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — On Friday, January 3, 2020 the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office filed a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Yuba County Sheriff’s Office with the U.S. Federal District Court, Northern District of California, requesting an immediate hearing on behalf of a female transgender immigrant who was illegally transferred on Christmas night to a remote detention facility in Texas. She has since been detained there in segregated confinement, forced to wear male clothes, and denied the ability to call her lawyer at no cost. 

BACKGROUND:

Lexis entered the U.S. as a baby and has resided here since 1979.  She was assigned male at birth, yet has struggled throughout her life to understand her identity, chafed at masculine norms, and sustained verbal and physical abuse from her immediate family into adulthood. In 2018, she was taken into ICE custody, placed in removal proceedings, and has been detained in immigration custody ever since.

In January 2019, San Francisco Deputy Public Defender Hector Vega took on Lexis’s case and helped her obtain some critical support she needed, including medical treatment, therapy, legal recognition of her female name and gender, and legal representation in her pending immigration case. *

However, on Christmas night 2019, officials at the Yuba County Detention Center approached Lexis in her cell and misled her to believe that she was being fully released and going home. Instead, Yuba deputies released Lexis directly to ICE, which took her to an airport and forcibly transferred her to a remote detention facility in Texas, where she is now detained nearly 2,000 miles away from her lawyer and community. Lexis was denied the ability to call her attorney prior to arriving in Texas. She has remained in segregated confinement at the Prairieland Detention Center in Alvarado, Texas, ever since, where she has no connections, no support, and no lawyer. ICE continues to punish Lexis, forcing her to wear male clothes, identifying her by her previous name and gender, and refusing to provide her gender reassignment treatment.

The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office is challenging ICE’s transfer and detention of Lexis as cruel and inhumane, and demands her release in a Temporary Restraining Order filed today with the Northern District of California.

*The San Francisco Public Defender’s Office launched a deportation defense unit in 2017 to remedy the lack of right to court-appointed counsel in deportation proceedings.

STATEMENTS:

Lexis (from Prairieland Detention Center, Texas):

“The conditions of my detention have worsened and have had a huge impact on my mental health and my ability to move forward. I think this has been so cruel to me. ICE and the other officers know how difficult the last 14 months have been for me and yet have had no compassion for the way they detain me and move me around like I mean nothing.”

Hector Vega, SF Deputy Public Defender:

 “We are gravely concerned for Lexis’s health and safety. The few times that we have been able to talk since Christmas, she has been in tears and asking me to help her come back. This was a callous act from a heartless agency and we demand that ICE release Lexis from custody. She deserves to finally truly express herself and her gender identity with the support of her community. She poses no danger to society and deserves to be released from custody and have her human rights respected.”

Genna Beier, SF Deputy Public Defender:

“Lexis bravely began her gender transition while in ICE custody, and yet at every turn the agency has denied her medical care and basic human dignity. ICE’s actions betray a complete lack of humanity and disregard for the law. We stand with Lexis in her fight, we affirm her inherent worth and strength, and we hope that the District Court will mete out some justice.”