Rep. Keith Ellison sent a letter to Attorney General Jess Sessions on Friday urging the Office of the Attorney General to investigate recent murders of transgender women of color — particularly African-American transgender women — in the United States.

“We write to urge you to investigate the recent murders of multiple African-American transgender women around the United States,” the letter from Ellison and five other Democrats states. “Transgender women are over four times more likely to be murdered than the general population of all women, and 2017 is on track to be the most deadly year for transgender women, particularly those who are African-American.”

The letter continued:

Your investigation of these murders under federal hate crime laws would help ensure that “the Blessings of Liberty” are secured for all Americans as guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. Over the last few years, transgender Americans and the contributions that they make to our communities have become more visible than ever before. However, it is clear that this increased representation has not made our country safer for the transgender community. In the last three years, reported murders of transgender women have grown from 16 in 2014, to 21 in 2015, to 27 in 2016. Only two months into 2017, at least seven transgender women have been murdered. Furthermore, of all of the murders of transgender people between 2013 and 2015, not a single one was prosecuted or reported as a hate crime, despite evidence in multiple cases that assailants were motivated by the victim’s gender identity.

The seven women who have been murdered in 2017 are: Ciara MeElveen, New Orleans, Louisiana; Chyna Gibson, New Orleans, Louisiana; Jaquarrius Holland, Monroe, Louisiana; Keke Collier (Tiara Richmond), Chicago, Illinois; Mesha Caidwell, Canton, Mississippi; Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow, Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Jojo Striker, Toledo, Ohio

“It is incumbent upon the Department of Justice to enforce the federal laws that govern such clear examples of anti-transgender violence, especially because most states lack similar hate crime protections for transgender people,” the letter reads.

Along with Ellison, the letter was signed by Reps. Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, Barbara Lee of California, Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts, and Jackie Speier of California.

Here’s the full letter:

Download (PDF, 648KB)

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Andy Birkey

Andy Birkey has written for a number of Minnesota and national publications. He founded Eleventh Avenue South which ran from 2002-2011, wrote for the Minnesota Independent from 2006-2011, the American Independent from 2010-2013. His writing has appeared in The Advocate, The Star Tribune, The Huffington Post, Salon, Cagle News Service, Twin Cities Daily Planet, TheUptake, Vita.mn and much more. His writing on LGBT issues, the religious right and social justice has won awards including Best Beat Reporting by the Online News Association, Best Series by the Minnesota chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and an honorable mention by the Sex-Positive Journalism awards.

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