QDEP defends a few key policies that are foundational for our work.
Kalief’s Law: This law was named after Kalief Browder, a 16 year old who was accused of stealing a backpack and spent 3 years on Rikers Island Jail because his family could not afford bail. During the time Kalief spent awaiting trail, he was assaulted by guards, beaten, starved and put into solitary confinement. While the 6th amendment ensures the right to speedy trial, New York City experiences such pile-ups that lead to years of delay for being charged but not convicted of crimes.
The time that people spend in centers waiting for their day in trial can include an array of serious abuse and rights violations that have significant phycological and emotional impacts. QDEP clients are particularly at risk because LGBTQI people are 13 times more likely to be assaulted in prisons; thus, the speediness of their release is all the more important.
Read Kalief’s Law here
Temporary Protected Status (TPS): TPS is a temporary immigration status granted to people from designated eligible countries. This status is provided to people who cannot return back to their home country because of ongoing war, disaster, persecution, famine, conflict etc. A beneficiary of TPS can obtain work authorization in the United States. There are 10 countries that currently have TPS, which include El Salvador, Haiti, Somalia, Syria, Nicaragua, Nepal, Sudan, South Sudan, Honduras, and Yemen. TPS is important for QDEP because many of our clients are from TPS receiving countries, which are at risk under the Trump Administration’s anti-immigration stance.
Bond Reform: When immigrant folks gets arrested for a crime, they wait in detention centers until they have a bond hearing. During the hearing, a judge will set a bond amount for the person to pay for their release. If a person cannot pay their bond, they must wait months, even years, for their court date. QDEP provides bonds for our clients, because often times, families cannot afford the steep prices bonds are often set at.
We envision significant reform for the future of bonds. We want to lower the price of bonds to make them more affordable for people who don’t have the financial means to attain one on their own. Additionally, we believe clients should attain bonds from organizations and personal funds, rather than bond companies who don’t always hold up their end of the bargain. Lastly, we envision bonds to be released on client’s own recognizance.
Anti-Travel Ban Stance: On January 27, 2017, Donald Trump signed a executive order to ban citizens from 7 majority-Muslim countries from entering into the United States. This order was put into place to protect the U.S. from “foreign terrorist entry” and simultaneously halted the U.S. refugee program and prevented any Syrian Refugees from entering into the U.S. indefinitely. On March 6, 2017, Trump signed a new executive order reinstating his original travel ban, excluding Iraq from the list. On June 26, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear arguments for the ban in October, but stating that the ban cannot apply to people with a bona fide relationship to somebody in the U.S. This excluded grandparents as being a bona fide relationship until July 13, when the Supreme Court issued a ruling to include grandparents as able to come to the U.S. from the 6 Muslim-majority countries.
QDEP actively fights to terminate this ban and ensure that all people from any background have the freedom to travel and live wherever they want.
Read More Here
Ending Solitary Confinement: Solitary confinement, often called Segregated Housing Units (SHU), refers to isolated confinement of 23 out 24 hours of the day in a small cell with limited access to the outdoors, medical care, emotional therapy, adequate food/water, exercise and socialization with other people. According to Black & Pink research, 85% of queer respondents reported that they have spent time in SHU.
People who experience SHU have reported numerous mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, anger, insomnia, hallucinations, paranoia and an increased risk of self-harm. In fact, A 1995 study of the federal prison system found that 63 percent of suicides occurred among inmates locked in SHU.
At QDEP, we fight to end solitary confinement particularly because it disproportionately impacts Transgender Women of Color (TWOC). This is because TWOC are often put in centers with all male detainees and are highly susceptible to sexual assault. Consequently, guards put TWOC in confinement for ‘their own protection.’
Asylum: Asylum is an immigration status reached by people who are already considered refugees, but currently in the U.S. and seeking protection. People seek asylum status when they leave their home country because of fear of persecution due to sexual orientation, race, religion, political views, nationality etc. Once a person is granted asylum, they are authorized to work in the U.S., they can travel overseas, and can apply to receive a social security card. When people arrive at the border seeking asylum status Costumes and Border Protection (CBP) will conduct interviews to see if there is credible fear to justify asylum. If the officer decides the asylum seeker has credible fear, meaning they have a ‘possibility’ of receiving asylum, they will be referred to immigration courts to start their application.
Asylum status is important to QDEP because CBP officers will often deny that LGBTQI persecution is sufficient reason to merit asylum. This is why many LGBTQI immigrants get sent back when they show up at the border seeking asylum, and why, in general, it is much more difficult for queer immigrants to receive asylum.