(/sites/default/files/uploads/2012/03/ice-2-image.gif)Transgender hormone therapy for illegal aliens is just one of the many new offerings of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) as part of the Obama administration’s continuous efforts to make the nation’s immigration detention system a more pleasant experience.
ICE, a division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is charged with implementing and enforcing federal immigration laws, including detaining and deporting those who break the law.
As part of the latter responsibility, ICE recently released its revised Performance-Based National Detention Standards 2011 (PBNDS 2011) manual, a 355-page operations document that sets the agency’s standards for treating illegal aliens housed in its nearly 300 detention facilities.
Among the series of noteworthy changes found in PBNDS 2011 – many of which are already being implemented – are calls for ICE to provide taxpayer-funded access to “hormone therapy” for transgendered detainees.
According to the ICE operations manual, transgender illegal aliens will have access to “transgender-related health care and medication based on medical need,” with treatment following “accepted guidelines regarding medically necessary transition-related care.”
However, ICE Spokeswoman Gillian Christensen has been quick to stress that transgender medical treatment will only apply to those detainees who are already receiving hormone therapy and not those who wish to undergo a sex change while in custody.
As such, according to PBNDS 2011, hormone therapy eligibility will be accepted if a new detainee “self-identifies as transgender” within 12 hours of arriving at a detention facility.
At that point, a specially trained ICE detention officer will inquire into a “transgender detainee’s gender self-identification and history of transition-related care.” If it is determined the self-professed illegal alien transgender detainee has been receiving hormone therapy, ICE will continue to provide it to him or her.
However, while hormone therapy for “transgendered” individuals may be the most eye-raising change found in PBNDS 2011, it is just one small part of a wide range of free medical services now offered for illegal detainees – services which include access to mental health services, dental work, and a two-week supply of prescription drugs upon release or deportation.
Moreover, ICE will not only assist pregnant illegal detainees with their delivery, but will also provide free transportation to an abortionist if the life of the mother is deemed to be endangered or the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
In addition to ICE’s medical services, the new federal detention standards also include ethnically diverse diet options, unfettered access to legal services, preferred-religious materials, and increased visitation and recreation. Those enhanced recreation amenities include access to television, board games, exercise equipment, and sports such as soccer, volleyball and basketball.
It should be noted that these new guidelines are a reflection of longstanding efforts by the Obama administration to make detention facilities less prison-like, arguing that detainees there are being held on civil immigration charges, not criminal offenses.
To that end, ICE Director John Morton announced in June 2010 that the agency had reached an agreement with Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) – the largest contractor for ICE – to “soften” confinement at nine immigrant detention facilities, covering more than 7,100 beds.
Those facilities were to be designed to offer freer movement for detainees and be equipped with “hanging plants, flower baskets, new paint colors, different bedding and furniture.” In addition, detainees would be provided access to self-serve beverages, cooking, exercise and art classes, bingo, and continental breakfast on the weekends.
At the time of that deal, ICE spokesman Brian Hale said it was ICE’s long-term goal to provide similar types of reforms with the remainder of ICE’s contracted facilities, a 30,000-bed detention system, mostly owned by state and local governments.
Not surprisingly, ICE’s revised detainment standards have sparked a heavy mixture of both disbelief and outrage, given that many of the perks being provided are not even given to American citizen prisoners.
Moreover, the president of the AFGE Council 118/ICE – the union that represents 7,000 ICE agents – has called the changes “absolutely insane,” arguing that it makes for an unsafe environment given that local prosecutors, lacking resources, often just “dump criminal aliens into ICE custody.”
Republican Representative Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has called the new requirements a “hospitality guideline for illegal immigrants,” adding that the Obama administration “goes beyond common sense to accommodate illegal immigrants and treats them better than citizens in federal custody … it’s just part of a broader pattern made to reward lawbreakers.”
That broader pattern by the Obama administration to accommodate immigration lawbreakers was on display only weeks prior to the release of PBNSD 2011 when Andrew Lorenz-Strait was appointed by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano as ICE’s first “public advocate” for illegal aliens.
The position of a taxpayer-funded public advocate – the nation’s first – was created by the Obama administration to handle questions and complaints by illegal aliens over the various changes the DHS has made in the past year concerning the way immigration authorities determine which undocumented immigrants are deported.
Lorenz-Strait’s appointment was shortly followed by DHS plans to eliminate 287(g), a program that allows local police to be trained and deputized to enforce immigration law.
Instead, DHS plans to replace 287(g) with Secure Communities, a program that allows ICE agents to screen inmates in county jails to detect and deport illegal immigrants by checking their fingerprints against immigration databases.
However, Republican Representative Duncan Hunter has called it an uneven trade-off, saying, “This is, cutting loose one program that deals directly with enforcement, the way it should be, and bringing in another program that goes after repeat offenders.”
To be fair, even if illegal aliens are identified, their chances of actually being deported are becoming increasingly remote. Deportation cases filed by the Obama administration are on pace in 2012 to be a nearly 30,000-person drop in deportations from 2011. Moreover, the increase in the length of time it takes to deport an illegal immigrant has gone from 230 days in 2009 to 302 days in 2011, a 31 percent increase.
Of course, for an illegal alien – given ICE’s commitment to enhance the hospitality of its detention facilities – the extended time here will at least be a pleasant stay.
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