Things That Matter

During Pride Month, Let’s Remember The Trans Latinas Who Have Recently Died While In ICE Custody

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Trans people are likely the most vulnerable and persecuted population in America. Add race and status discrimination to the mix and trans mortality dramatically shortens. Eight black trans women have been murdered in the U.S. so far this year. And yet, the United States might be the safest, geographically accessible country in the Americas for trans people.

In the last few years, there has been an influx of trans people seeking asylum from the violence they experience in Central America and Mexico. When they arrive, they’re placed in ICE detention centers where their abuse and mistreatment has resulted in two reported deaths in just over a year.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) interviewed 28 transgender women held in ICE and released its report.

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In 2016, the HRW reported “serious and disturbing allegations of sexual harassment and abuse, of mistreatment, of the dangers of being placed with the male population, and [lack of access] to medical treatment.”

Women were being forced to endure strip searches from male guards. The solution to the abuse they faced in male populations was to place them in solitary confinement, rather than a female population.

Johana Medina Leon asked for medical attention for weeks before she died on June 1st.

@Dr_Whomever / Twitter

She pled for medical attention for weeks. On May 28th, ICE finally complied and she found she tested positive for HIV. ICE released her on parole, to be sent to an El Paso hospital with chest pains and died days later. Officials haven’t released a cause of death yet.

Medina Leon had passed the first round of the interview process to gain asylum from El Salvador.

@NMACCommunity / Twitter

She was held in detention over a month before her first interview and was going into her second month at the Otero processing center–a privately owned facility notorious for its abuses against the LGBTQ+ community.

Roxsana Hernandez Rodriguez traveled from Honduras to seek asylum in the U.S. She died in ICE custody.

@ajplus / Twitter

Hernandez Rodriguez died on May 9, 2018. The official autopsy reports that she died of severe dehydration–a shockingly preventable death. Independent autopsies commissioned by civil rights activists discovered the proof of abuse Hernandez Rodriguez faced during her 16 days in ICE custody.

Hernandez Rodriguez had anonymously shared her stories of rape as a trans woman in Honduras.

@aflores / Twitter

She was part of the migrant caravan that the media decided to cover last year. The independent autopsies revealed that she had been beaten while in custody. ICE denies the allegations.

Medina Leon, 23, and Hernandez Rodriguez, 33, exemplify ICE’s inability to provide appropriate medical care to trans asylum seekers.

@MaketheRoadNY / Twitter

There is currently no policy that forces ICE to place transgender immigrants in the gender population of their expression. HRW reports that the most significant danger to a trans woman in ICE custody is being misgendered and placed in the male population. One trans woman interviewed revealed she was raped by three men in a detention center in Arizona.

More than 26,000 people have petitioned to release Alejandra Barrera, the longest detained trans woman.

@sonsandbros / Twitter

Barrera has been in an ICE facility since November 2017 when she first reached the border seeking asylum from El Salvador. In the last 19 months, she has had no opportunity to build a new life and is at increased risk of sexual violence while in ICE.

The Trans Latina Coalition is working to make sure Barrera is released.

@TransLatina_C / Twitter

Barrera experienced sexual assault by a gang and the Salvadoran military before leaving her work of trans right advocacy in El Salvador for a semblance of safety. Yet, her request for parole has been denied and she remains behind bars, without adequate access to medical care.

While LGBT people make up .1 percent of ICE detainees, they account for 12 percent of the victims of sexual assault.

@AlturiOrg / Twitter

ICE reported to Congress that 40 trans people were placed in solitary confinement in 2017. Twenty-five of whom requested the confinement, which is internationally recognized as torture because being in gen pop was unsafe.

Trans people seeking refuge are only finding abuse and death in U.S. detention centers. ICE refuses to accept any responsibility for these preventable deaths, perhaps because they think nobody is watching.

READ: New York City Is Finally Dedicating A Memorial To The Two Trans Women Of Color Who Started The Gay Liberation Movement

Puerto Vallarta Has Long Been An LGBTQ-Friendly Travel Destination And Here’s Why

Culture

Puerto Vallarta Has Long Been An LGBTQ-Friendly Travel Destination And Here’s Why

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Puerto Vallarta is one of the favorite Mexican tourist destinations of the LGBT community. There are hotels, bars, nightclubs, beaches, and even drinks specifically for LGBT travelers, and due to the safety and welcoming environment for these guests, it is the first city in Mexico to receive the Gay Travel Approved distinction by GayTravel.com.

But why PV? What made Vallarta Mexico’s top gay destination?

Let’s start back at the beginning.

Credit: thatgaygringo / Instagram

In the south of Puerto Vallarta you will find the “Old Town,” also called “The Romantic Zone,” the tourist area favored by expats and foreigners who want to soak up local traditions. The Old Puerto Vallarta is also considered the gay neighborhood since 1980, when the gay community and retired Canadians and Americans bought land and properties in order to create gay-friendly businesses. Today there’s a wide variety of attractions with this focus, including bars, restaurants, stores, nightclubs, and both budget and boutique hotels.

In this zone is nestled the popular beach Playa de los Muertos, which, although not exclusively gay, for the last 20 years has been known as a gay-friendly beach (also called Blue Chairs, because of the many blue chairs placed by a gay resort which bears the same name), mainly in the high season, from November to March.

Why is this pristine beach the LBGT meeting point? Because the gay-friendly beachfront hotels in the area causes—and guarantees—a concentration of LGBT tourists, bringing a multicultural ambience where members of this community will be respected without discrimination. In the morning they can socialize and enjoy the party atmosphere, and in the afternoon walk holding hands under the dazzling sunset, in a romantic atmosphere free of hostility. Such is the high demand for LGBT-friendly vacation spots that the area has been extended to include the green chairs and as far as the north coast, in the elegant Oceano Sapphire Beach Club, owned by gays.

But it’s about more than just the beach.

Credit: David Stanley / Flickr

Unlike certain countries, laws against homosexuality never existed in Mexico. There is, however, a strong macho culture and religious influence which disapproves it—nonetheless the locals show respect. Under these circumstances, the growing community has led LGBT organizations to work to promote a change of culture in the pursuit of equality. Their work has gotten results: they have achieved recognition of gay rights, and implemented laws against the provocation and incitement of hate or violence against LGBTs, and also to guarantee equality in employment and public accomodation and services. Even more, in 2013 Puerto Vallarta legalized civil union between LGBT couples, followed by same-sex marriage in 2016.

This city organized its first Gay Pride March, and has hosted the Pink & Proud Women’s Party—the equivalent lesbian celebration—for the last four years, with assistance from the local Canadian and American communities. The multiple events in support of the LGBT community have marked out Puerto Vallarta as the “Mexican San Francisco.”

Now, there’s a giant and flourishing LGBTQ tourism industry that welcomes people from around the world.

Credit: Kristopher Roller / Unsplash

For the last 10 years, the number of LGBT visitors has increased in Puerto Vallarta and Jalisco, and in order to meet demand, the number of LGBT-friendly resorts and touristic attractions has also increased. Now three of every 10 hotels in Puerto Vallarta are LGBT-friendly, and most also offer weddings and other symbolic ceremonies.

Bars, nightclubs and other amenities are already focused on this market, and there are also tours—like the Gay VIP Bars Tour—and even drinks—like the Gay Tequila and the Gay Energy Drink—to make these guests feel extra welcome. As a result, Puerto Vallarta now hosts International LGBT Business Expos, with important conferences and events, including fashions shows, beach parties and music festivals to celebrate this booming market.

Puerto Vallarta remains the gateway to Mexico for many LGBTQ travelers.

Credit: kwhigam / Flickr

Some other cities have recognized the demand, and are now attempting to attract LGBT tourism to their destinations. Puerto Vallarta is not letting it happen: diverse businesses—no matter the sexual preference—are joining forces to create organizations to promote this targeted brand of tourism. The market gives consumers what they want, and they have identified this growing target and will not let it go.

Beyond the marketing, Puerto Vallarta became a platform to support gay rights, and the LGBT community knows it and feels welcome here. What really keeps the LGBT community hitting Puerto Vallarta is the activism, respect, and freedom they find in this beautiful paradise.

Activists Are Warning That The Guard Running His Truck Through Protesters Is Not Going To Be The Last

Things That Matter

Activists Are Warning That The Guard Running His Truck Through Protesters Is Not Going To Be The Last

People across the U.S. are stunned by a viral Twitter video showing a contract Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) guard driving his pick-up truck through a crowd of protesters. The protesters, part of the Jewish activist organization Never Again Action, posted videos of the assault on Twitter and it has sparked outrage at the actions of law enforcement at the scene. Here’s what happened.

Captain Thomas Woodworth has been placed on administrative leave following the incident, according to authorities.

Credit: @theplaceilove / Twitter

“The incident which occurred last night is currently being investigated by the Rhode Island State Police,” a statement to the Boston Globe read. “Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility Warden Daniel Martin is also conducting a top to bottom review of the incident, Wyatt correctional officers’ response, and the Wyatt’s protocols regarding protest activities outside of the facility. Captain Thomas Woodworth has been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the independent investigation being conducted by the Rhode Island State Police, and the Wyatt’s internal investigation.”

People are spreading his information as far and wide as they can to shame him for his actions.

Credit: @AntiFlashGordon / Twitter

The video has been shared all over social media and people have reacted with shock and anger. Other activists are pointing out that the use of a car to ram protesters is becoming a more common thought and occurrence than in recent history.

Others are using the video as a moment to question what exactly is happening inside the detention centers they are protesting.

Credit: @nat_lern / Twitter

People have been trying to get people’s attention to the humanitarian crisis in the detention centers. There is a real concern that if guards can run their car through a group of lawful protesters, what are they doing to migrants in detention?

Activists captured video of an ICE guard using his pick-up truck to break through a group of protesters in Rhode Island.

Credit: @NeverAgainActn / Twitter

Protesters were stationed outside of the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Rhode Island. During the protest, a pick-up truck drives up the protesters and honks the horn before driving through the crowd of protesters. However, the truck was not the only time the protesters were assaulted during the protest.

During the incident, law enforcement at the scene used pepper spray on the protesters to break up the crowd.

Credit: @NeverAgainActn / Twitter

“We will not be deterred by the violence that was taken against us last night,” a spokesperson for Never Again Action told NBC News. “People are being harmed in ICE custody every day. This is exactly why we are doing what we’re doing.”

People are horrified at the blatant attack on peaceful protesters.

Credit: @mcastimovies / Twitter

The video is a chilling reminder of the violence we have seen against protesters in recent times. Two years ago, the world watched in shock as a white supremacist ran his car into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia during the Unite the Right rally. The attack claimed one life, Heather Heyer, in the name of hate. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured during the incident on Wednesday night.

Five people were hospitalized after the guard ran over protesters.

Two people were hospitalized because of the truck driving into the crowd and three people were hospitalized for the pepper spray. The whole incident has not deterred the organization from standing against ICE and its detention practices.

READ: More Than 100 Protesters Were Arrested In New York City For Blocking One Of The Busiest Streets In The City

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