The Trump administration pressed a federal appeals court Monday to allow the U.S. military to restrict service by transgender men and women, calling it "truly extraordinary" that judges throughout the country have stood in the way of its policy.

Judge Thomas Griffith noted the way in which President Donald Trump announced the initial ban last year on transgender troops in a series of tweets — and to the surprise of military leaders — "was extraordinary, too."

The exchange in Washington came during oral argument at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and after three lower court judges have temporarily blocked the restrictions in challenges from civil rights and gay rights organizations. Thousands of transgender troops have continued to serve and enlist.

There were parallels in the Trump administration's argument Monday to those made in support of the president's ban on travelers to the U.S. from certain Muslim-majority nations. Trump had initially pledged a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States."

On the transgender service ban, Trump announced the prohibition via Twitter in July 2017, and cited what he viewed as the "tremendous medical costs and disruption" transgender military service would cause. The administration's order reversed President Barack Obama's policy of allowing transgender men and women to serve openly and to receive funding for sex-reassignment surgery.

Attorneys for active-duty service members went to court to block the policy shift that could subject current transgender service members to discharge and deny them certain medical care.

The court rulings were met with another policy revision early this year from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, who issued a plan to bar men and women from the military who identify with a gender different from their biological sex and who are seeking to undergo the medical transition process. The new plan makes exceptions, for instance, for about 900 transgender individuals who are already serving openly and for others who would serve in their biological sex.

The Justice Department has tried to short circuit the appeals process by asking the Supreme Court to intervene and rule on the issue this term, but the high court has not yet acted.

The dispute at the D.C. Circuit on Monday centered in part on whether Mattis's revised policy is substantially different from the president's initial order. The appeal by the government contends a lower court judge was wrong when she said she could find no evidence transgender troops would harm the military and put Mattis's proposal on hold nationally while the administration continued its legal fight.

Griffith suggested the government's requirement that transgender troops serve in their biological sex would force a person to suppress their nature and what it means to be transgender.

"Isn't that a contradiction in itself?" Griffith asked. He suggested that "no one can fit into the category you describe."

Justice Department attorney Briton Lucas emphasized that a person's transgender status alone was not disqualifying, and noted that a subset of transgender individuals have no interest in transitioning.

That argument was picked up by Judge Stephen F. Williams, who repeatedly referred to transgender individuals who "do not wish to transition," seeming to make the point that the administration's policy is not a complete ban.

"The record in this case is against you," Williams told the lawyer representing the transgender troops, Jennifer Levi.

Levi disagreed. She told the judge a person's gender identity is "deep-seated" and there are significant reasons, including concerns about discrimination, that would make a person reluctant to transition.

The revised policy still is "rooted in discrimination against an entire group," said Levi, who led the team from GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and the National Center for Lesbian Rights.

The court discussion had echoes of arguments over the travel ban and its makeovers.

The administration revised its initial sweeping travel ban after a "worldwide review," and lower courts struck down each of three iterations of the president's policy. In June, the Supreme Court upheld the president's power to control entry into the U.S.

At the D.C. Circuit Monday, the government's lawyer said the new version of the policy restricting transgender military service was crafted based on the military's professional judgment and after extensive review.

Lucas, of the Justice Department, urged the court to defer to the judgment of the military and said the situation was "no different than the travel ban case."

Griffith said the revised version of the travel ban included "many, many differences." The judge added, "You haven't been able to identify so many."

Judge Robert Wilkins also seemed skeptical the recast rule on troops had changed much otherthan its provision allowing current transgender troops already serving openly to remain.

"Other than the grandfather clause, what's the difference?" he asked.

Attorneys for the transgender service members said the revised plan still discriminates because it continues to apply different standards to a group of troops because of gender identity, rather than considering an individual's fitness to serve.

Top military leaders told Congress in April they had seen no evidence transgender personnel serving openly had presented a problem for unit cohesion or military readiness.

A long list of retired military officers, former national security officials and military historians have filed briefs in support of allowing transgender troops. The former officials reject the government's argument that the policy arose from the type of military judgment to which courts should defer. President Trump did not consult with military leaders before announcing the initial ban on Twitter, and, they say, the subsequent order is no different.

The appeal comes after U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly repeatedly rejected the government's requests to lift her initial injunction, finding "absolutely no support for the claim that the ongoing service of transgender people would have any negative effect on the military at all."

In August, the judge acknowledged the plan from Mattis is "more nuanced" but found a similar discriminatory effect.

The Mattis plan "still accomplishes an extremely broad prohibition on military service by transgender individuals that appears to be divorced from any transgender individual's actual ability to serve," Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

By Robert S. Chang, founding executive director, Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at Seattle University School of Law

With the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals scheduled to hear oral arguments on Monday in the Doe v. Trump legal challenge to the transgender military ban, Trump's Justice Department is expected to make arguments diminishing the humanity of transgender people and insulting their willingness to put their lives on the line to defend this nation.

Though the Trump administration has falsely called service by transgender people a matter of national urgency — even going so far as to attempt a leapfrog of normal legal process by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to step in prematurely — the only response from the court should be to affirm the equal dignity of transgender Americans and their right to full participation in American life, including the right to serve their country with honor. The proposed transgender military ban (endorsed by a commander-in-chief who did not serve when he had the opportunity) is a slap in the face to those transgender persons who have served, who are serving, or who want to serve.

The ban is further discredited by being counterproductive to the strength of our military forces. The military itself has recognized that arbitrarily barring qualified individuals from service harms its readiness and ability to recruit and retain talent. In a 2016 press briefing, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter noted, “[w]e have to have access to 100 percent of America’s population for our all-volunteer force to be able to recruit from among them the most highly qualified and to retain them.” At a time when the military struggles to meet recruiting goals, it is not only shameful but irrational to deny those who want to serve their country the opportunity to do so.

Besides which, the administration’s reasoning for the ban and claims about “unit cohesion” are stale and recycled, having been previously discredited time and again when used against people of color, women and gay men and lesbians.

By banning transgender people from serving in the military, the Trump administration denigrates honorable service of transgender people who have already fought and died and sacrificed alongside their fellow soldiers.Military service has — counter to arguments about the inability of servicemembers to effectively work and fight alongside of all other Americans who have made the commitment to serve — played a critical role in breaking down stereotypes of marginalized groups and making the promise of equal citizenship real.

Time and again, individuals facing extreme prejudice in civilian life have, despite those prejudices, signed up to fight for their country. It occurred during the Civil War when black people sought to serve in the Union military, and again during World Wars I and II. Similarly, during World War II, thousands of Japanese Americans who had their loyalty questioned and their freedoms rescinded by internment nevertheless volunteered to serve (and later became one of the most decorated units in the war). Racial integration inside the military had reverberations outside it.

And from women in combat to the end of “don’t ask don’t tell,” honorable military service has also shown the ability to tear down broader barriers to equality for marginalized groups.

Though barriers to true equality remain, we have seen time and again how the service and sacrifice of marginalized groups expand their opportunities by demonstrating the falsity of stereotypes. As a result, a black man has been Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, an openly gay man has led the Army and women have been our chief diplomats, attorneys general and a secretary of the Air Force. Individuals from marginalized groups today serve in the halls of Congress and governor mansions, in corporate boardrooms, and on the federal bench. Military service opened doors and minds in ways little else could.

When confronted with clear injustices, we as a nation have not always risen to the occasion. Too often, we have remained on the sidelines as we witnessed discrimination. We remained silent and permitted the enslavement of millions. We remained silent and permitted the displacement of Native Americans. We remained silent and permitted the mass deportation of Mexican Americans during the Great Depression and in the 1950s. We remained silent and permitted the incarceration of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.

Today, we have an opportunity to recognize the wrongs in front of us in the moment and to take a different course. I am moved by the outpouring of protests in response to policies like the transgender military ban, the rescinding of DACA and severe restrictions on who can seek asylum and refuge at our border. Whereas once some may have been too ready to believe that blatant discrimination against a minority was justified, or to know it is wrong but to acquiesce by remaining silent, we have come to realize that violating the core American value of equality causes lasting harm and undermines our country’s strength.

Frederick Douglass once said, in exhorting his fellow African Americans to enlist in the Union Army during the Civil War, that whoever “fights the battles of America may claim America as his country — and have that claim respected.” Transgender soldiers are already serving in the U.S. military, fighting the battles of America; their service and sacrifice establishes clearly their claim on America. Enabling discrimination against them calls into question our own commitment to the values we claim that America represents

In May, a transgender woman named Roxana Hernández, 33, died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s custody, after she traveled to the United States to seek asylum. Upon her initial arrival in the U.S. she was not considered for asylum, despite the high rates of violence against transgender people in Honduras; instead, she was scheduled to be deported. It was during this process that she became seriously ill and died.

The circumstances of her death remain shrouded in mystery. ICE reportedthat Hernández died of a heart attack after suffering “with symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration, and complications associated with HIV” in New Mexico on May 25. However, an investigation from the Transgender Law Center contradicted that report — and claimed that before her death, Hernández was subjected to abuse, including beatings.

And now, Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) are seeking answers. On Monday, they sent a letter to Ronald D. Vitiello, the acting director of ICE, and Kevin K. McAleenan, the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, demanding that they release a detailed report about Hernández’s death. Much is still unclear; here is what we know so far.

An independent autopsy report from the Transgender Law Center contradicts ICE’s report.

In the letter from the Senators, they outlined that an independent investigation and autopsy from the Transgender Law Center showed that Hernádez’s death was “preventable.” Their report suggested that severe complications of dehydration on top of an HIV infection cause Hernández’s death. The report also showed that before she died, she was beaten by “a baton or similar object while she was restrained by handcuffs.”

“Reports suggest that while she was held at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, Ms. Hernández endured freezing temperatures and was denied adequate food, water, and medical care,” stated the letter from the Senators. “During her transport between facilities by ICE, she vomited to the extent other detainees begged authorities to provide her with water and proper medical care.”

Advocates from multiple organizations claim that her health issues were caused by treatment that could be considered torture. After Hernández entered the U.S. on May 9 as part of a migrant caravan in San Ysidro, California, she was detained and held for two weeks before her deportation proceedings began.

She was processed and held for five days in the dreaded ‘icebox’ — holding cells with extremely low temperatures — in U.S. Customs and Border Protection suffering cold, lack of adequate food or medical care, with the lights on 24 hours a day, under lock and key,” read the joint statement from the organizations Diversidad Sin Fronteras, Al Otro Lado, and Pueblo Sin Fronteras. “During her first week in the United States Roxy’s body and spirit quickly deteriorated.”

ICE hasn’t commented on the reports of abuse, but listed Hernández’s cause of death as “cardiac arrest.”

In a statement released by the agency on May 25, ICE gave its account of Hernández’s death — which was the sixth reported death of a detainee in ICE’s custody in the fiscal year. “On May 17, Hernandez was admitted to Cibola General Hospital with symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration and complications associated with HIV,” read the statement. “Later in the day she was transferred via air ambulance to LMC, where she remained in the intensive care unit until her passing.”

ICE has a terrible track record with trans detainees, according to reports from advocates.

“Paired with the abuse we know transgender people regularly suffer in ICE detention, the death of Ms. Hernández sends the message that transgender people are disposable and do not deserve dignity, safety, or even life,” said Isa Noyola, deputy director at Transgender Law Center.

The organization’s Trans Immigrant Defense Effort works to provide emergency legal services for transgender people who are detained by immigration authorities because “ICE has shown time and again it is incapable of protecting transgender women in detention.”

Now, Senators are asking for a full report.

The three Senators who sent the letter to ICE and CBP are demanding that ICE “immediately release a full and complete death review and supporting documentation on Roxana Hernández to the public,” which is already required by Congress.

“Congress requires ICE to publish an initial report, for public release, on each in-custody death for within 30 days and similarly for a final report within 60 days,” continued the letter from the Senators. “It has been over 180 days since Ms. Hernández was pronounced dead and no such report has been publicly released. ICE’s failure to release this report diminishes the systemic, traumatic, and in this case fatal, violence that transgender individuals experience daily as a result of their gender identity.”

In addition to specific actions regarding the death of Roxana Hernández, the lawmakers also asked that “ICE and CBP each provide us with complete accounting and documentation of the specific training that their officers, agents, and contractors receive related to the processing, medical evaluation and care, and safety of transgender individuals in custody.”

In May, a transgender woman named Roxana Hernández, 33, died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s custody, after she traveled to the United States to seek asylum. Upon her initial arrival in the U.S. she was not considered for asylum, despite the high rates of violence against transgender people in Honduras; instead, she was scheduled to be deported. It was during this process that she became seriously ill and died.

The circumstances of her death remain shrouded in mystery. ICE reportedthat Hernández died of a heart attack after suffering “with symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration, and complications associated with HIV” in New Mexico on May 25. However, an investigation from the Transgender Law Center contradicted that report — and claimed that before her death, Hernández was subjected to abuse, including beatings.

And now, Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-CA), Tom Udall (D-NM), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) are seeking answers. On Monday, they sent a letter to Ronald D. Vitiello, the acting director of ICE, and Kevin K. McAleenan, the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, demanding that they release a detailed report about Hernández’s death. Much is still unclear; here is what we know so far.

An independent autopsy report from the Transgender Law Center contradicts ICE’s report.

In the letter from the Senators, they outlined that an independent investigation and autopsy from the Transgender Law Center showed that Hernádez’s death was “preventable.” Their report suggested that severe complications of dehydration on top of an HIV infection cause Hernández’s death. The report also showed that before she died, she was beaten by “a baton or similar object while she was restrained by handcuffs.”

“Reports suggest that while she was held at the San Ysidro Port of Entry, Ms. Hernández endured freezing temperatures and was denied adequate food, water, and medical care,” stated the letter from the Senators. “During her transport between facilities by ICE, she vomited to the extent other detainees begged authorities to provide her with water and proper medical care.”

Advocates from multiple organizations claim that her health issues were caused by treatment that could be considered torture. After Hernández entered the U.S. on May 9 as part of a migrant caravan in San Ysidro, California, she was detained and held for two weeks before her deportation proceedings began.

She was processed and held for five days in the dreaded ‘icebox’ — holding cells with extremely low temperatures — in U.S. Customs and Border Protection suffering cold, lack of adequate food or medical care, with the lights on 24 hours a day, under lock and key,” read the joint statement from the organizations Diversidad Sin Fronteras, Al Otro Lado, and Pueblo Sin Fronteras. “During her first week in the United States Roxy’s body and spirit quickly deteriorated.”

ICE hasn’t commented on the reports of abuse, but listed Hernández’s cause of death as “cardiac arrest.”

In a statement released by the agency on May 25, ICE gave its account of Hernández’s death — which was the sixth reported death of a detainee in ICE’s custody in the fiscal year. “On May 17, Hernandez was admitted to Cibola General Hospital with symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration and complications associated with HIV,” read the statement. “Later in the day she was transferred via air ambulance to LMC, where she remained in the intensive care unit until her passing.”

ICE has a terrible track record with trans detainees, according to reports from advocates.

“Paired with the abuse we know transgender people regularly suffer in ICE detention, the death of Ms. Hernández sends the message that transgender people are disposable and do not deserve dignity, safety, or even life,” said Isa Noyola, deputy director at Transgender Law Center.

The organization’s Trans Immigrant Defense Effort works to provide emergency legal services for transgender people who are detained by immigration authorities because “ICE has shown time and again it is incapable of protecting transgender women in detention.”

Now, Senators are asking for a full report.

The three Senators who sent the letter to ICE and CBP are demanding that ICE “immediately release a full and complete death review and supporting documentation on Roxana Hernández to the public,” which is already required by Congress.

“Congress requires ICE to publish an initial report, for public release, on each in-custody death for within 30 days and similarly for a final report within 60 days,” continued the letter from the Senators. “It has been over 180 days since Ms. Hernández was pronounced dead and no such report has been publicly released. ICE’s failure to release this report diminishes the systemic, traumatic, and in this case fatal, violence that transgender individuals experience daily as a result of their gender identity.”

In addition to specific actions regarding the death of Roxana Hernández, the lawmakers also asked that “ICE and CBP each provide us with complete accounting and documentation of the specific training that their officers, agents, and contractors receive related to the processing, medical evaluation and care, and safety of transgender individuals in custody.”

Elizabeth Stephanie Montez was killed over a roll of pocket change, prosecutors say. 

The trial for Cedric Green, one of four people accused in the transgender woman's October 2017 killing, began Tuesday in 117th District Court. After a jury was selected, attorneys presented their opening statements, laying out what they think evidence in the case will show. 

In his opening statement, First Assistant District Attorney Matt Manning promoted the theory that while all four suspects were played a role in the crime, Green was the one who "primarily concocted" the plan to kill Montez.

He said Montez had been seen going to Church's Chicken to exchange a roll of dimes totaling $20 for paper money. Those dimes had initially been given to co-defendant Chloe Huehlefeld by Green, but Huehlefeld said Montez had stolen them from her, Manning said. 

They went to several shops looking for the money. A employee at Church's said the roll of coins has been exchanged there. 

"I anticipate what you'll learn after that is that Mr. Green, Chloe Huehlefeld, Randy Dorsey and ... Jace Montange went to Mr. Green's apartment and had conversation about what was going to happen to Liz," Manning said. 

Manning alleged the four suspects made a plan for "retribution" by luring her near an abandoned barn on County Road 61. There, Huehlefeld threatened Montez with a gun Green had given to her. 

Huehlefeld fired a shot, Manning said. Montez ran out to the brush, and Green took the gun and handed it to Montange and told him to "finish the job." Montange shot at Montez about 12 times, Manning said. 

Green's attorney, Mark Stolley, asked the jury to consider what evidence he said they would not see. He said there's no evidence Green shot Montez; there's no DNA evidence, fingerprints linking Green to the scene or weapon that's part of the state's evidence.

Manning said the gun was disposed of in jetties near Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. 

Stolley questioned the credibility of some of the state's witnesses and their motivation for testifying. Dorsey, for example, accepted a plea deal in the case earlier this year. Stolley said he expects Dorsey to receive probation for engaging in organized criminal activity.  

He maintained the case lacks "hard evidence." 

"When you put all of that stuff together, you realize that this case just goes away with reasonable doubt and the only true and fair and just verdict is not guilty," Stolley told the jury.

Green is charged with murder and engaging in organized criminal activity. He has pleaded not guilty.

Last week, Huehlefeld was sentenced to 55 years in prison in the killing. She was tried before a Nueces County jury in October, and 117th District Judge Sandra Watts handed down her sentence weeks later. 

Huehlefeld maintained during her trial she was present when the shooting occurred but didn't take part in planning it.

Montange is scheduled to go to trial later this month, according to online court records. 

Montez, 47, was discovered on the porch of a home between Corpus Christi and Robstown in October 2017, according to an affidavit. She was "bleeding and not communicating effectively" when found by authorities, the document states. 

She was taken to a hospital, where she later died.

An autopsy found she suffered five gunshot wounds.

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