Things That Matter

This Digital Posada Is All About Helping The LGBTQ Migrant Community, Who Face A Uniquely Challenging Reality

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.

Credit: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

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.

Credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images

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.

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Mexican Officials Point To Provision In USMCA That Safeguards Migrants’ Health

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Mexican Officials Point To Provision In USMCA That Safeguards Migrants’ Health

Healthcare is a universal right. However, it’s one that depends on your immigration status in the United States, unfortunately. This has become more evident with the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine as many officials across the country are saying that they will not offer the vaccine to undocumented residents.

It’s long been known that the country’s Brown and Black residents have long suffered the consequences of inequality in the nation’s healthcare system. But now, as those very communities are hit the hardest by the pandemic, they’re being denied the one tool we have to help relieve the community’s suffering.

Update January 14, 2021

Mexican officials are ready to invoke parts of the North American trade agreement to ensure vaccines for undocumented migrants.

Earlier this month, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts announced that undocumented people will not be included in the vaccination plan. He has since attempted to at least partially walk back those comments. Mexico immediately raised the alarm and offered to help undocumented migrants in the U.S. receive the vaccine.

According to Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) has provisions about the health of migrant workers. In the agreement, which President Trump touts as his accomplishment, the countries have agreed to safeguard the lives of migrant workers.

Minister Ebrand is prepared to invoke the provision designed to protect vulnerable migrant workers. As stated in a press conference, the Mexican government is prepared to consider any effort not to vaccinate undocumented migrants in the U.S. a violation of the trade agreement.

Mexico’s AMLO offers to vaccinate migrants who are unlawfully living in the U.S.

Mexico’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), recently announced that he was ready to provide the COVID-19 vaccine to undocumented residents living in the United States.

“It’s a universal right. We would do it,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said before his regular daily press conference after the press asked him if Mexico would step up to help vaccinate undocumented migrants living in the U.S. – many of whom are Mexican nationals.

Although, like many of AMLO’s promises, he offered little in the way of details and many are rightfully skeptical of the promise given his government’s limited ability to deliver the vaccine to people within his own country. It also wasn’t clear which migrants in the U.S. would qualify under AMLO’s vaccine rollout.

AMLO announced his intentions after officials in Nebraska said undocumented residents wouldn’t be eligible.

AMLO raised the possible vaccination program after the governor of Nebraska said that undocumented residents of his state likely wouldn’t get vaccinated due to their immigration status.

“You’re supposed to be a legal resident of the country to be able to be working in those plants, so I do not expect that illegal immigrants will be part of that vaccine with that program,” Governor Ricketts said during a coronavirus briefing.

Gov. Pete Ricketts is a member of Trump’s Republican Party but his comments about workers in Nebraska’s meat-packing plants provoked criticism from public health and migrant advocates.

Roberto Velasco, a senior Mexican diplomat for North America, responded to Ricketts on Twitter. “To deprive undocumented essential workers of #covid19 vaccination goes against basic human rights,” he wrote on Twitter, including Ricketts’ Twitter handle and citing text from the U.N.’s declaration of human rights.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leader of pro-migrant progressives in the Democratic party of President-elect Joe Biden, also spoken out firmly against Ricketts’ statement.

“Imagine being so racist that you go out of your way to ensure that the people who prepare *your* food are unvaccinated,” she wrote on Twitter.

Undocumented residents fill many of the nation’s riskiest “essential” jobs.

Study after study have shown that most of the nation’s “essential workers” are people of color – with a large number being undocumented migrants. The same applies to the country’s meat-packing jobs.

According to the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute, it estimates 11% of Nebraska’s meat-packing workers – and 10% of the workers nationwide – lack legal immigration status.

Meanwhile, since the pandemic began, there have been sporadic yet severe outbreaks of COVID-19 among meat-packing plants in the U.S., helping spread the virus around rural America where the plants are concentrated.

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Honduran Woman Gave Birth On Bridge Between U.S. And Mexico Border But What Will Happen To Them Next?

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Honduran Woman Gave Birth On Bridge Between U.S. And Mexico Border But What Will Happen To Them Next?

Julio César Aguilar / Getty Images

As the number of parents and children crossing the border continues to increase, driven by violence and poverty in Central America, many are growing desperate while being forced to wait in migrant camps in Mexico. While crossings have not reached the levels seen in previous years, facilities that hold migrants are approaching capacity, which has been reduced because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This is forcing many to check the status of their claims by crossing into the U.S. to speak to border agents. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that more and more women are being forced to give birth in less than ideal situations – putting at risk both the lives of the mother and child.

A migrant woman gave birth on a bridge between U.S.-Mexico border.

According to Mexican border authorities, a Honduran woman gave birth on the Mexican side of the border bridge between Matamoros, Mexico and Brownsville, Texas. The woman was apparently trying to reach the U.S. side, but felt unsteady when she got there and was helped by pedestrians on the Mexican side waiting to cross.

Mexico’s National Immigration Institute said the birth occurred Saturday afternoon on the Ignacio Zaragoza border bridge, also known as “Los Tomates.” It said authorities received an alert from U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials regarding “a woman trying to enter the country improperly.”

It said the woman was taken to a hospital in Matamoros, where she was given free care. Her child will have the right to Mexican citizenship.

Hernández is hardly the first woman to give birth while hoping to cross into the U.S.

Just last month, a woman gave birth along the U.S. side of the Rio Grande. She had just crossed the river and her smugglers were yelling at her to keep moving as U.S. Border Patrol agents arrived. But she couldn’t continue, fell to the ground, and began to give birth.

The mother and her her daughter are safe and in good health. “They treated me well, thank God,” said the woman, who didn’t want her name used because she fears retribution if she’s forced to leave the country, in an interview with ABC News.

“There’s so many women in great danger,” Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, told ABC News. “They must really think before they do what they do and risk the life of their unborn child.”

Like so many other women, Hernández was waiting in Mexico under Trump’s cruel immigration policies.

Hernández was reportedly among about 800 migrants sheltering in an improvised riverside camp while awaiting U.S. hearings on their claims for asylum or visas. Other migrants are waiting in Matamoros, but have rented rooms.

Thousands of other migrants are waiting in other Mexican border cities for a chance to enter the U.S. — some for years. The Trump administration has turned away tens of thousands at legal border crossings, first citing a shortage of space and then telling people to wait for court dates under its “Remain in Mexico” policy.

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