In an incremental but crucial step forward for transgender rights, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Office of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) issued new guidelines this past Monday regarding the management of transgender immigrants held in detention facilities.

These guidelines range from simply allowing them to reside in a facility that corresponds to their preferred gender identity to modifying designated faculties in order to staff a Transgender Classification and Care Committee (TCCC) that will specifically ensure that these individuals are treated fairly at every step of the process.

In an accompanying memorandum issued by ICE, they further promised to arrange sensitivity training for intake personnel tasked with welcoming new detainees, as well as continuing to provide access to hormone therapy to those who are currently taking it — those who have not yet begun it will also be given therapy should it be deemed medically necessary and safe. Detention staff will be directed to address individuals by their preferred pronouns at all times, and at no point are they allowed to conduct the search of a detainee in order to determine their assigned gender.

The announcement seems particularly timely in the wake of an incident last week involving activist Jennicet Gutiérrez, who interrupted President Obama as he spoke at a LGBT Pride event in order to demand the release of LGBTQ immigrants held in these facilities. "President Obama, release all LGBTQ immigrants from detention and stop all deportations," the undocumented Gutiérrez shouted before being escorted out of the event.

Gutiérrez later explained in a Washington Blade op-ed that, "Transgender immigrants make up one out of every 500 people in detention, but we account for one out of five confirmed sexual abuse cases in ICE custody." The ICE memo notes that its newly formed LGBTI (the I standing for Intersex) field liaison will coordinate their efforts with the Prevention of Sexual Assault Coordinator whenever needed.

For their part, ICE said that its new policies were formed with the help of a "six-month agency Working Group that examined these issues with subject matter experts, sought input from transgender individuals, and visited various non-federal facilities across the country to observe best practices."

"The Transgender Care Memorandum reaffirms ICE’s commitment to provide a safe, secure, and respectful environment for all those in our custody, including those individuals who identify as transgender," said ICE ERO Executive Assistant Director Thomas Homan in a statement. "We want to make sure our employees have the tools and resources available to learn more about how to interact with transgender individuals and ensure effective standards exist to house and care for them throughout the custody cycle."