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Victoria Villalba, an Undocumented Transgender Activist Inspiring Change

She’s 19 years-old, an LGBT and immigration activist, undocumented, transgender and this year’s recipient of the Colin Higgins Foundation Youth Courage Award. She’s a fighter. She’s Victoria Villalba.

Victoria first came to the U.S. when she was three years old, but when her father was deported, the family returned to Mexico. Twelve years later, Victoria bravely came out to her parents.

“When I came out they rejected me. I no longer talk to my parents,” confessed Villalba, who after being outcasted by her family lived on her own for three years in Mexico. She struggled to find housing and employment.

READ: Trans Latina Women Share their Story with #MyVanityFairCover

She sought political asylum at the U.S. border. However, her request was denied, and she was held in a detention center. Her situation worsened after Victoria reported the injustices taking place in the detention center. As a result, she was placed in solitary confinement for three and a half months. It’s been a year since she was released.

“Getting out was the only thing that kept me going,” said Villalba. “I didn’t have someone outside waiting for me, and I didn’t know what would become of me if I ever got released. [Would I be] getting killed in my country of birth for my gender expression or in this U.S. detention center?”

Photo Credit: United We Dream/Facebook

Shortly after being released, Victoria joined the United We Dream: Queer Undocumented Immigrant Rights Project (QUIP) chapter in Arizona, an opportunity that would help her explore a new mission in life. Victoria became an avid activist fighting for the liberation of transgender and queer people in U.S. detention centers.

“I know I’m not the first one, and I know I won’t be the last,” said Villalba. “That’s why I’m standing up [for the trans community], hopefully the system stops discriminating against [transgender people] and starts treating us as humans.”

Photo Credit: Sam Hubbard/Facebook

Her efforts have included launching hunger strikes, organizing informational conferences for undocumented transgender people, and spearheading success efforts to have three transgender women released from detention. Earlier this month the Colin Higgins Foundation presented Victoria with the Youth Courage Award and awarded her $10,000. The prize also included an all expense paid trip to L.A. Pride festival, one of the nation’s largest LGBT celebrations, where she’ll also be recognized at an awards ceremony.

“I feel honored to be receiving this award,” said Victoria. “I share this award with the trans community. I want to use the money to return to school and pursue a higher education. I want to become an immigration paralegal.”

READ: UndocuQueer Activist Changing the Immigration Debate

Despite her successes, her one wish is to be back with her family.

“Even though they don’t accept me, I want to be with my sisters and brothers again. I hope it changes one day. I want them to be proud of me and happy of how far I’ve come along,” said Villalba.

Her message to other transgender people, “you don’t need long hair, makeup or surgical proceedings to be who you are. If I want to wear makeup and get dolled up, I will. If I don’t want to I won’t. I perfectly love myself either way.”

Tell us about other LGBT  or immigrant activists that you admire. Please leave comments below.

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9-Year-Old Migrant Girl Drowns While Trying to Cross the Rio Grande in the U.S.

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9-Year-Old Migrant Girl Drowns While Trying to Cross the Rio Grande in the U.S.

Photo via Getty Images

On March 20th, U.S. Border Patrol agents found a 9-year-old migrant girl unresponsive along with her mother and sibling on an island in the Rio Grande.

U.S. Border Patrol agents attempted to resuscitate the family. The agents were able to revive the mother and her younger, 3-year-old child. The Border Patrol agents transferred the 9-year-old migrant girl to emergency medics in emergency medics in Eagle Pass, Texas, but she remained unresponsive.

In the end, the 9-year-old migrant girl died–the cause of death being drowning.

The mother of the two children was Guatemalan while the two children were born in Mexico.

The death of the 9-year-old migrant girl is notable because this is the first migrant child death recorded in this current migration surge. And experts worry that it won’t be the last.

And while this is the first child death, it is not the only migrant who has died trying to make it across the border. On Wednesday, a Cuban man drowned while trying to swim across the border between Tijuana and San Diego. He was the second migrant to drown in just a two-week period.

Why is this happening?

According to some reports, the reason so many migrants are heading towards the U.S. right now is “because President Trump is gone”. They believe they have a better chance of claiming asylum in the U.S.

Another factor to take into consideration is that a large number of these migrants are unaccompanied minors. According to migrant services volunteer Ruben Garcia, Title 42 is actually having the opposite effect of its intent. President Trump enacted Title 42 to prevent immigration during COVID-19 for “safety reasons”.

“Families that have been expelled multiple times that are traveling with children,” Garcia told PBS News Hour. “Some of them are making the decision to send their children in by themselves, because they have families someplace in the U.S., and they know their children will be released to them.”

Is there a “border crisis”?

That depends on who you ask. According to some experts, the numbers of migrants heading to the U.S./Mexico border aren’t out-of-the-ordinary considering the time of year and the fact that COVID-19 made traveling last year virtually impossible.

According to Tom Wong of the University of California at San Diego’s U.S. Immigration Policy Center, there is no “border crisis”. “This year looks like the usual seasonal increase, plus migrants who would have come last year but could not,” Wong says.

As the Washington Post explained: “What we’re seeing right now is a predictable seasonal shift. When the numbers drop again in June and July, policymakers may be tempted to claim that their deterrence policies succeeded.”

What is the Biden Administration planning on doing about it?

As of now, it is pretty evident that the Biden Administration has not been handling this migrant surge well, despite ample warning from experts. As of now, President Biden has put Vice President Harris in charge of handling the issues at the border.

As of now, the game plan is still very vague. But in the past, the Biden Administration has stated that they plan to fix the migrant surge at the source. That means providing more aid to Central America in order to prevent further corruption of elected officials.

They also want to put in place a plan that processes children and minors as refugees in their own countries before they travel to the U.S. The government had not tested these plans and they may take years to implement. Here’s to hoping that these changes will prevent a case like the death of the 9-year-old migrant girl.

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Trans Latina’s Account Of Transphobic Treatment At TSA Goes Viral— ‘Solution was to ask me if I wanted to be scanned as a man’

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Trans Latina’s Account Of Transphobic Treatment At TSA Goes Viral— ‘Solution was to ask me if I wanted to be scanned as a man’

The TSA has long come under fire for its mishandling of minorities. From their treatment and suspicion of certain ethnicities to their mishandling of binary scanning technology, it’s no secret that TSA officers are lacking in awareness when it comes to certain issues. This is particularly true when it comes to nonbinary and trans people. In fact, recently a ProPublica investigation revealed that trans people are often forced to endure invasive searches by the TSA in airports.

In some of the worst cases, trans people have reported being forced to show their genitals to simply fly.

Rose Montoya, an Arizona-based, Hispanic, bisexual, nonbinary trans model recently recalled an experience with TSA that was extremely transphobic.

In the viral TikTok video, which has racked up over three million views, Montoya recalled her experience with airport security and underlined why “we need to change how the scanners function and educate TSA about trans people”.

Speaking about the recent incident, Montaya recalled how “going through the scanner, there’s a male and female scanner for the TSA checkpoint… But going through the scanner, I always have an ‘anomaly’ between my legs that sets off the alarm. So she asked me if I had anything in my pants and I say, ‘No’, so she said, ‘Maybe it’s just the metal buttons on your shorts.’”

“So I went through the scanner again but I set off the alarm again, so I said I am trans woman and to just pat me down,” she explained. “Her solution was to ask me if I wanted to be scanned as a man instead. I didn’t, but I ended up doing it. And my boobs set it off, because of course. So I tried to make a joke out of it and said don’t worry, there’s just a bunch of plastic in there. Then she said we have to pat you down and asked if I would prefer a man to do it. I said absolutely not.”

In an interview with Buzzfeed, Montoya was recently traveling from Phoenix to Los Angeles to visit her boyfriend when she was subjected to humiliation by TSA.

Montoya’s experience sparked a conversation on TikTok and Instagram, where many trans people shared similar experiences with TSA.

a“It’s been proven that the system we have in place is broken and doesn’t work,” she emphasized. “We also need to train people on how to treat trans people. If I tell you I’m a trans woman, it most likely means I want to be scanned as a woman, treated as a woman, and patted down by a woman.”

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