NPR’s Maria Hinojosa was a guest on AM Joy on MSNBC and, of course, the conversation found its way to Donald Trump. During the discussion, Trump surrogate Steve Cortes tried to argue why undocumented immigrants are a burden on the United States. Cortes tried to use the term “illegals” and “illegal immigrant” and Hinojosa was not going to let him get away with it. Immediately, she jumped right in and told him that “illegals” is not a noun and cannot be used to describe a person.
When she said “illegals” is not a noun, Cortes tried to get out of it by saying it’s an adjective.
“What you can do is that you can say that it is an immigrant living illegally or an immigrant living without paper or without documents in this country,” Hinojosa told Cortes. “But what you cannot do is to label a person illegal. The reason why I say this isn’t because I learned it from some radical Latino or Latina studies professor when I was a college student. I learned it from Elie Wiesel, who survived the Holocaust, who said, ‘You know what. The first thing they [the Nazis] did was they they declared the Jews an illegal people.’ That’s what we’re talking about at this point. This is real fear.”
With homosexuality still illegal in more than 60 countries around the world and attitudes towards transgendered people often even less welcoming, it’s obvious why so many people risk their lives to migrate to the United States.
However, that journey to a better life is often one of many dangerous hurdles and often times, once swept up in immigration proceedings, things don’t get much better.
LGBTQ detainees across the country have shared harrowing experiences of being mocked or tortured for their gender identity or sexual orientation. Many others have been sexually assaulted while in ICE custody or while waiting for their asylum claims at the U.S.-Mexico border. And transgendered and HIV-positive detainees have both been denied medically necessary healthcare that has posed a risk to their lives.
LGBTQ migrants have the same issues and problems to worry about that all other migrants face, however, the LGBTQ experience comes with several extra hurdles.
LGBTQ migrants coming to the U.S. face unique challenges that often put them at increased risk of violence.
Like so many others, LGBTQ migrants are often fleeing violence and persecution in their native countries. But despite often fleeing sexual violence and trans- and homophobia, so many migrants are sexually assaulted while in U.S. custody.
While just 0.14 percent of ICE detainees self-identified as LGBTQ in 2017, they reportedly accounted for 12 percent of sexual abuse and assault victims.
Based on a new report from the Center for American Progress, a public policy research and advocacy organization, LGBTQ migrants in federal detention centers are 97 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other detainees.
Studies show LGBTQ migrants are among the most vulnerable, more likely to be assaulted and killed, especially trans migrants. Of Central American LGBTQ migrants interviewed by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in 2017, 88 percent were victims of sexual and gender-based violence in their countries of origin; two-thirds suffered similar attacks in Mexico.
Human rights group allege that ICE fails to provide proper medical care to LGBTQ migrants – particularly trans and HIV-positive detainees.
Migrant advocacy groups and several lawmakers have demanded that ICE release all LGBTQ detainees and anyone with HIV in the agency’s custody, because the government has repeatedly failed to provide adequate medical and mental health care to them.
“We know that lack of medical and mental-health care, including lack of HIV care, is the norm,” Roger Coggan, director of legal services at the Los Angeles LGBT Center, told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “By the Department of Homeland Security’s own count, 300 individuals identifying as transgender have been in custody and at the mercy of ICE since October of 2018.
For detainees with HIV, antiretroviral treatment is necessary to help kill and suppress the virus which ensures a healthy life but also reduces the risk of transmission to basically zero. Yet ICE is failing to provide this life-saving care.
Johana Medina Leon, a transgender woman who was detained at Otero and had tested positive for HIV, fell seriously ill and died at a hospital in nearby El Paso. Leon, 25, was the second trans woman to die in ICE custody in New Mexico in the past year. Roxsana Hernandez, 33, died in November 2018 after falling ill at the Cibola County Correctional Facility.
Meanwhile, Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy is presenting additional challenges to the LGBTQ community.
While the Trump administration has severely limited asylum qualifications for Central Americans fleeing gang violence and domestic abuse, migrants can still request asylum based on persecution because of their gender identity and/or their sexual orientation. But their path is far from easy.
The administration continues to return LGBTQ migrants to Mexican border cities where they face assaults, kidnappings and death while they await U.S. court hearings.
“Here, the same as at home, the police discriminate against us,” Alejandro Perez told NBC News in early October. “We’re very vulnerable. I don’t feel safe here in Mexico.”
Border Patrol officials initially said “vulnerable” asylum seekers would be exempted from the Remain in Mexico program, including those who are LGBTQ, pregnant or disabled. But that hasn’t been the case.
Thankfully, the LGBTQ Center Orange County is working hard to protect and help the most vulnerable.
Southern California is home to the nation’s largest undocumented community, which means organizations like the LGBTQ Center Orange County have their work cut out for them. However, the center has proudly stood up to help in powerful and life-changing ways.
The LGBTQ Center OC is one of the leading migrant outreach centers in the region, attending numerous events throughout the year and providing outreach at the Mexican consulate in Santa Ana – each year reaching more than 5,000 people. The center also played a pivotal role in ending the partnership of Santa Ana Police and the Orange County Sheriff with ICE, bringing an end to ICE detention within the county.
As those migrants were detained at facilities outside the county – sometimes more than two hours away – the center mobilized volunteers to help stay in touch with detainees. This team helps provide much needed companionship through letters and notes, as well as providing legal representation and even cash payments that help detainees get everything from a filling meal to in-person visits.
And the work the center does is so important because it shouldn’t just be on detainees to speak out. All of us as part of the LGBTQ and migrant communities should support those in detention and speak out about the injustices they’re suffering in detention.
The Center is hosting a digital posada and you’re invited!
We all know the tradition of a posada. So many of us grew up with a holiday season full of them and although this year will look very different (thanks to Covid-19), the LGBTQ Center OC wants to keep the tradition and celebration alive.
Posadas commemorate the journey of Mary and Joseph in search of a safe refuge, a sentiment that so many migrants and refugees in our communities can relate to. It’s with this spirit that the center is hosting it’s annual posada – but virtually.
The important event is free for all to attend but is a critical fundraising event that enables the center to do all that it does for the LGBTQ migrant community across Southern California. You can learn more and RSVP here but just know that it’s an event you do not want to miss.
Not only will you be able to virtually hang out with members of the community and leaders from the LGBTQ Center OC but there will also be a screening of the short documentary, Before & After Detention, a spirited round of lotería, raffle, and a live performance by the LGBTQ Mariachi Arcoíris de Los Angeles.
Now that Sen. Kamala Harris will Vice President-elect Harris, there is a lot of talk about who Gov. Gavin Newsom should appoint to the seat. There is a lot of pressure on Gov. Newsom to appoint a person of color and we agree. Here are six Latino politicians from Southern California that should be appointed to the vacant Senate seat.
Solis’s political career started in 1992 when she ran for and won a seat in the California State Assembly. In that position, Solis made her presence known and was a crucial voice in the debate on undocumented immigrants backing legislation to make college accessible to undocumented immigrants living in California. Since then, Solis has served in the California State Senate, represented California in the House of Representatives, served as Secretary of Labor under President Obama, and is currently on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Solis has history, experience, and knowledge of politics from local to national levels. In that time, Solis has backed and written legislation and policies on every issue ranging from domestic violence to the environment.
Garica is the current mayor of Long Beach and has established himself on the international stage. As mayor of Long Beach, Garcia has worked tirelessly to address climate change and establish strong trade partnerships with countries around the world.
As an openly gay politician, Garcia has used his time in office to work to expand LGBTQ+ rights around the world. The mayor has visited Peru and Honduras Victory Institute and the State Department to take the fight to Latin America.
Barrágan is currently a congresswoman reprensenting California’s 44th congressional district. The congresswoman would bring a legal background often needed by members of the Senate. Barrágan started to get involved with politics working on African-American outreach for the Clinton administration. Barrágan also spent time working with the NAACP working on health policy and racial health disparities.
Barrágan was one of the members of Congress to go to the U.S.-Mexico border during the Trump administration. Barrágan recorded and exposed the conditions of people legally seeking asylum under Trump’s assault on migrants.
De León started his political career in 2006 when he was elected to the California State Assembly. After a brief tenure, de León was elected to the California State Senate where he worked on a wide range of issues. De León worked with his colleagues on issues like affirmative consent, the environment, gun control, and transportation.
De León ran for the Senate in 2018 against Sen Dianne Feinstein and lost. Now, de León serves on the Los Angeles City Council filling José Huizar’s former seat. Huizar stepped down due to an investigation into corruption and birbery.
Torres has had a steady career in politics starting on the Pomona City Council before becoming Mayor of Pomona. From there, Torres served in both the California State Assembly and State Senate before becoming a member of Congress representing California’s 35th congressional district.
As a member of Congress, Torres has worked on the following committees:
United States House Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee on Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies
Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government
Padilla has been a public servant for California for decades serving as president of the Los Angeles City Council before being part of the California State Senate. In 2015, Padilla became the Secretary of State of California. In 2017, Padilla pushed back against the Trump administration and refused to turn over voter data to the administration. He then went on to win reelection with 64.5 percent of the vote in 2018.
Padilla is currently the favorite to be Gov. Newsom’s choice to fill Vice President-elect Harris’ vacant seat in the Senate.