Showing posts with label Gay Immigration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gay Immigration. Show all posts

March 15, 2019

Running Away From His Dad’s Beatings Because of Being Gay He Joined The Caravan

Alexander Flores Olivas (right) is one of 15 LGBTQ+ migrants from Central America seeking asylum in the District. He’s seen hugging Consuella Lopez (left) of Casa Ruby, a local nonprofit organization which took them in when they arrived on March 4, 2019.

Sasha-Ann Simons / WAMU

A decade after leaving his parents’ home in Nicaragua for good, 22-year-old Alexander Flores Olivas is seeking asylum in the District.
He’s part of a group of 15 LGBTQ+ migrants from Central America who arrived in a caravan last week, fleeing violence and homophobia in their home countries. The group was taken in by Casa Ruby, a bilingual D.C. nonprofit that provides social services and programs to support LGBTQ+ community members.
Olivas said he had no choice but to run away. His father suspected that Olivas was gay, and made life unbearable for the young boy. He would beat up Olivas and invite others to join in. Soon Olivas was caught in a cycle of leaving home and returning, until one day he decided it was too unsafe to go back.
“The family was not accepting me,” said Olivas in Spanish, as Consuella Lopez, Casa Ruby’s director of external affairs, translates.
“The father tried to kill him on three occasions. He also had his brother try to kill him.”
Olivas picked up odd jobs in order to survive, and bounced from neighborhood to neighborhood. He longed for the freedom to just be himself. Years later, Olivas met a young man, Felipe Aguilar Dominguez, who eventually became his boyfriend.

The Long Road To America

Over the last two years, thousands of migrants have traveled to the U.S. and Mexico to escape rampant violence and poverty in Central America. Attacks by gang members, police officers and family members — along with a lack of job opportunities — are among the factors that push LGBTQ+ people to leave their home countries.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s latest effort to repel asylum-seekers was quietly successful — and is expanding. As part of what the administration is calling its “Migrant Protection Protocols,” some Central Americans have been turned back and told to wait in Mexico while their cases processed. The new policy has slowly ramped up at border crossing points. For migrants, that means waiting in underfunded or overcrowded shelters in unsafe cities such as Tijuana. It’s a fundamental shift in asylum policy, a legal protection you can claim while on American soil. For now, the vast majority of asylum-seekers are still allowed to remain in the U.S. pending their immigration court appearances.

Alexander Flores Olivas (right) is one of thousands of Central Americans who have made the dangerous trek north to escape violence in their home countries. “I left with the hopes of not having to go through that again,” Olivas said.Sasha-Ann Simons / WAMU
Still, Olivas and his boyfriend, Dominguez, boldly decided to give it a shot last month. They traveled to Mexico to join hundreds of people in a caravan en route from Honduras to the U.S. border.
Olivas describes the chaotic journey. Some people nearly drowned, he said, trying to cross the Rio Grande, the river marking the boundary between Mexico and the United States. At one point, Olivas had to carry Dominguez because he can’t swim. Although people from all walks of life traveled in the caravan, Olivas says its LGBTQ+ passengers had it the worst.
“Even though the caravan is a unified people coming here, it’s still dangerous,” Olivas said. “People are singled out and some people left behind.”
Olivas was among some of the caravan’s LGBTQ+ passengers who separated from the larger group while trying to avoid gang members perched near a bridge along the route.
“And as soon as I stopped swimming and got out of the water, American immigration officers grabbed me and they put me in the jail cell,” Olivas said.

In Care Of Casa Ruby

Grassroots organizations in Central America worked to help the caravan carrying Olivas and Dominguez, and provided connections with organizations in the U.S. that could sponsor the migrants from El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua once they arrived. Olivas and his group were refused by five centers that did not accept LGBTQ+ migrants.
After receiving a call from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Ruby Corado traveled to San Antonio to meet the migrants who had just been released from ICE custody. Corado, a transgender woman who was born in El Salvador and is Casa Ruby’s CEO, then rented a van and drove the group to D.C.
“As she was driving through the different states to get here, there were people, churches and friends to the cause who provided food, shelter, and showers to all of them,” said Larry Villegas, Casa Ruby’s deputy director.
Since their arrival last week, Villegas said Casa Ruby has helped the migrants get clothes, proper identification and medical help. And, he said, the migrants have gradually become more expressive through poetry writing, art projects and deep discussions with staff. The organization has received many donations for the group, including toiletries, cots and blankets, and cell phones for them to call family members back home.
Even though the caravan is a unified people coming here, it’s still dangerous. Not everybody makes it.
But after a joyful welcome, Villegas said, then came tears. Reality is setting in for some of the migrants. Although they found a new home, the hard part isn’t over. Questions like ‘Where am I?’ and ‘What happens next?’ are taking over their minds.
“You can still see people getting nervous when the police come here to Casa Ruby, even if they are just coming to check in and see if everybody’s safe,” Villegas said. “The uniform still triggers.”
The 15 migrants each await a pending court appearance on March 27. There, they will stand before a U.S. immigration judge for the first time and show their efforts so far to become productive community members in the District. Until then, Villegas said, Casa Ruby staff will continue working to get them acclimated to this foreign land in a place whose mission aligns with theirs.
“It is OK to be gay. It is OK to be transgender. It is OK to be who you are,” Villegas said.

September 17, 2018

After 6 Hour Interview Another Gay Immigrant Seeking Refuge is Denied Entry Because of Not Gay Enough

People at the border between Austria and Germany in 2015
 Border between Austria and Germany( Kerstin Joensson/AP)

Over the last month there have been a few notable cases of asylum seekers in Austria. In each of the cases, the men in question, who are from Muslim countries, claim to be gay, but are rejected for not acting gay enough.
The first two cases were reported on August 15th. The first involved an Afghan teenager who was rejected when an immigration official told him that he didn’t “walk, act, or dress” like a gay man, according to The Guardian. The teen also got into fights with other men in his accommodation, and his aggression, according to the official, was not something that would be expected out of a gay man.
Other factors that the official led with were the fact that he didn’t have many friends — “Aren’t homosexuals rather social?” — and that he wouldn’t be able to recognize his own sexuality at a young age, like he had claimed. The teen said he realized his sexuality at the age of 12, but the report from the Austrian official said this was unlikely because it was too young and because the society in Afghanistan isn’t sexually stimulating.
The analysis of this teenager’s personality given by the Austrian immigration official is based on a combination of pretty specific personality stereotypes and just misinformation. Obviously not all gay men are social, and even if they were, I’m not sure the attitudes of someone trying to gain asylum are completely representative of their personality. Also, you don’t need to know many gay people to know that it’s very possible to discover your sexuality at 12, or even earlier.
The second case involved an Iranian man, Navid Jafartash, 28, who was first refused asylum when he was asked and couldn’t answer a question about what each color on the LGBT rainbow flag meant. In an interview with the Washington Post, Jafartash said he was certain he would be accepted because he “had an Austrian boyfriend, a number of gay Austrian friends and had even appeared on the country’s main evening news cast to discuss homosexuality — an interview for which he could have faced the death penalty in Iran.”
To put it simply: This is absurd. Let’s put aside the ethnocentrism that comes into play when assuming that all gay men around the world would know anything about the rainbow flag that originated in Kansas. Even in the United States, you’d probably be hard-pressed to find an LGBT person who even knows that each color stands for something, let alone has the knowledge to name them.
On August 27th, a 27-year-old Iraqi man called Firas had his application rejected after a six-hour interview in which officials deemed he was acting too stereotypical to be a real gay man. According to The Independent, he was subsequently outed to his father and brother during questioning — even after assurance that the information from the interview would remain confidential.
Not only does Firas’ story show the Austrian government using pretty irresponsible and violent action towards his wellbeing, but it shows some inconsistencies. We have three separate cases of gay men who are disqualified for multiple reasons — not gay enough, too stereotypically gay and not familiar enough with western gay symbols.
All three of these cases pose the problem of what it means to be gay and how identifying as gay sets expectations of gender expression, interests and personality in general. Plenty of gay men, especially those who grew up with the need to suppress their sexuality, can act as masculine as straight men. And on the other hand, plenty of gay men act in ways that might be considered stereotypical. This isn’t news to anyone in 2018.
However, there might be something darker going on. Rather than the Austrian officials not believing these gay men, they could very well be using the flexibility of LGBT identity in order to deny them asylum for xenophobic or political reasons. If you want to deny someone access to your country, what better way than by insisting that they’re lying about an immaterial part of their identity?
The Austrian government has taken some steps towards more nationalist-driven, restrictive immigration policy. There have been talks of cutting benefits for immigrants, including refugees, who do not speak German. They also recently cut the opportunity for asylum seekers to take labor training apprenticeships, effectively making it more difficult for them to find work in the country.
It seems possible that Austrian immigration officials are setting impossible standards for what being gay is in order to effectively deny asylum to gay men who genuinely fear for their safety. And in the process, they’re recklessly endangering multiple gay people who could be criminally punished in their home country for their sexuality. Setting your own rules for sexuality and behavior is one thing, but using the grey area of queer identity to promote nationalist policy is much more sinister.

Ryan Khosravi

Ryan Khosravi is a culture writer based out of New York, and his thing in the world is beating unsuspecting straight men at Super Smash Bros.

June 18, 2018

"Undocuqueer" Transgender and Undocumented~~What Rights Do They Have?

Ximena Ospina knows all too well what oppression looks and feels like. The 23-year-old transgender activist, who was born in Cali, Colombia, is a current DACA recipient. She lives in NYC, where she's been studying sociology and business at Columbia University since September 2016. It's a major change from where she was last year: homeless, alone, and with little opportunity in the workforce. Having come to the US from her home country as a young child, Ospina has had to fight for her place not only in this country but also within the Latinx community as a transgender, undocumented woman.
Ospina first came to the US in 1999 on a tourist visa with her sister and her father's cousin. The experience was traumatic for the then-5-year-old, whose parents had already immigrated and settled in New Jersey. The family overstayed their visas but struggled financially. A year after making a home in the US, Ospina's parents made a difficult decision: to send Ospina and her sister back to Colombia for a few months while they got their finances in order. They were later able to afford to fly their children back to the States on a tourist visa, which they overstayed. That time around, the US became Ospina's permanent home.
In 2018, Ospina is helping to unite undocumented queer individuals like herself who have trouble finding their tribe. She's a scholar under Point Foundation, which helps rising lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students achieve their full academic and leadership potential. She's also a regular Section Leader in New York's Pride March and a translator for the New York Immigration Coalition. Ospina, who also goes by "Undocuqueer" on social media, spoke to POPSUGAR about her journey as a transgender woman and undocumented Latinx in a country where her rights are constantly targeted — and her strength and endurance underestimated.
Image Source: Third Blade Photography
POPSUGAR: What were the first years like, living as a child in a new country that you're not from?
Ximena Ospina: It wasn't too difficult because it was the best of an immigration POC enclave, I would say. Most people were either immigrants themselves or children of immigrants. Adjusting wasn't too hard because I was surrounded by Latinxs and people of color. I didn't feel necessarily excluded from the mainstream, only in that I noticed I didn't look like anyone on TV or movies. But we also just watched so much Latinx television that it wasn't even that big of a deal. If anything, I guess my biggest struggle growing up was just my femme-ness and my queerness. Most of the violence I received was about my queerness and not the fact that I wasn't a white American.
PS: When did you come into your identity not just as a Latinx but as a transperson?
XO: I didn't arrive to a conclusion or understand myself as trans until I turned 21. I came out as bisexual in 2010 but didn't come out to my friends as trans until 2015.
PS: Did you always know growing up that you were undocumented?
XO: I knew just because it would always come up in conversation. I didn't feel shame about it. I grew up being fully aware that I was going to be forced into undocumented misery, but that didn't affect me a lot growing up.
PS: Did you experience the effects of being undocumented when you first signed up for DACA or when you were trying to pay for school?
XO: I started to feel the main effect of it probably during driver's ed, which was in high school. It was mandatory, so I knew that even if I did well in the class and if I passed the driving test, there was no point because I still couldn't get a license. But again, there were so many undocumented people in school that it was very normal. It was just stressful. DACA came out after I graduated, so that entire time, I couldn't make any money, and my parents were not interested in giving me allowances or anything. I had to sell garbage bags to groups of teachers and random stuff to members of my school just to pay for prom and the senior retreat.
Image Source: Third Blade Photography
PS: When did you first sign up for DACA?
XO: The day after I graduated high school. But I didn't get my DACA [status] until February 2013. I was happy not to be working under the table [anymore] because before I got my DACA, I was working at a warehouse and working in landscaping.
PS: Were you going to school while working?
XO: No, I wasn't. I didn't go to college right after high school. I was only going to school part-time, paying for two classes at a time in cash because the scholarships weren't [as] plentiful as they are now.
PS: Do you remember specifically what it felt like signing up for DACA? Were you nervous about trusting all your information to the government?
XO: I wasn't scared. I really just had faith in the government and everything that Democrats were saying and Obama was saying. I was just excited to be able to work and have a life — and just being able to get my own car and drive, because my relationship with my parents wasn't good, and I depended on my dad a lot for rides.
PS: What was the process like?
XO: It was a little nerve-racking because I did it all by myself. I didn't want to spend money on lawyers, and lawyers were really predatorial at that time. I was mostly frustrated to have to drop all the money [for the DACA application]. (Editor's note: an initial DACA application costs roughly $465.) That was already very painful to come by, doing all these manual-labor jobs.
PS: What would you say are some misconceptions about DACA recipients?
XO: A misconception is we deserve more sympathy than other immigrants. I feel like we're just lucky to have [immigrated] at a certain age. (Editor's note: DACA recipients must have entered the country before their 16th birthday and been under the age of 31 in June 2012 to qualify.)
"I used to think of myself as a Latinx person who happened to be undocumented but was actually part of the LGBTQ community. As I began my activism, I began to think of myself as belonging to both communities."

PS: Was this during your coming out as a transperson? Did you have to change your name in that paperwork?
XO: I actually decided that all of this — legally changing [my] birth name and gender — is going to have to happen after I've gained status, which is a really depressing thing and certainly causes me daily anxiety and depression. It's hard to live with, but I know I probably won't legally be able to change my name for a while.
PS: How would you describe your activism?
XO: I think my activism is more focused on intercommunity building more than awareness raising. My activism used to be more about awareness raising at the beginning until I realized, again, we're preaching to a choir, really. Because none of this is about awareness or understanding systems. It's really just like a very intentional forced oppression of people.
PS: Would you say there were parallels between finding your queer community and also finding your undocumented community?
XO: I used to think of myself as a Latinx person who happened to be undocumented but was actually part of the LGBTQ community. As I began my activism, I began to think of myself as belonging to both communities. As times progressed, my work got more comprehensive. I realized that it was a waste of my time and energy to fight for both communities as a whole, and [instead I fight] for the people that go through my experiences.
Image Source: Third Blade Photography
PS: Would you say that everything you're describing to me right now is what inspired your activism?
XO: I think my activism comes from my loneliness . . . from the fact that my sister left the house when I was 13 and she's never come back, really. She visits, but she wasn't allowed back into the country [from Canada] for 10 years, so I grew up without her. That upbringing created this sense of loneliness in me, and so as I became an adult and had more control of my life, I sought out these communities because I realized, yes, there is such a thing as oppression and hatred.
PS: You have experienced homelessness. One in five transpeople has experienced discrimination when looking for a home, and more than one in 10 has been evicted from their home. What do you think this country can do to lower these numbers?
XO: People who are looking for roommates have to cut the whole gender bullsh*t because a lot of my homelessness was exacerbated by the fact that people were specifically looking for cis [roommates]. What they really should do is look for roommates who won't kill them and who need the housing they're offering.

PS: Have you met a lot of LGBTQ+ people through DACA?
XO: I feel like DACA was rather inconsequential to my life in terms of how I socialize, really, or who I socialize with, until I started activism. I felt it was really important to have undocumented folks around me. It's definitely been a lot of work because undocumented queer folks . . . it's so hard for us to have spaces to come together. I'm just glad that my work basically has been to put me in touch with people like me.
PS: Is there something from the undocumented queer experience that you would want people to know about?
XO: I want people to begin to realize that the curves of political agency, or at least navigating the political climate of these days, that [undocumented queer people] are actually masters at it. I feel we hold the freaking keys to survival because we already know what it's like to fight for LGBTQ rights. And we already know how to live under that kind of pressure and that kind of hatred and that kind of demand to constantly validate yourself. I think what's more frustrating is that even the cisgender heterosexuals of the immigrant rights movement totally disregard just how much experience we have with oppression.
PS: Can you tell me how you felt the moment Trump set his sights on DACA?
XO: I wasn't surprised. I was just like, "OK, how am I going to survive now? And how am I going to make sure I show up for people who are going to be suffering?" The day he rescinded DACA, I was actually outside Trump Tower during the press statement. I was by Trump Tower protesting, yelling, the whole shebang. Because at that point I knew there was nothing else I could do except yell and let out my anger.
PS: Do you feel the pressure to have a "Plan B" if they take away DACA?
XO: I have "Plan B through Z." I don't think any undocumented person at this point doesn't have a "Plan B" . . . it's always been trying to find ways that I can apply for some sort of protection because I'm trans. My deportation is a little like a death sentence because transwomen of color in Latin America don't live past their mid-30s. They're murdered or they kill themselves from abuse. (Editor's note: according to a report by Transgender Europe, 82 percent of reported trans murders between October 2016 and September 2017 were in Central and South America.)
I'm lucky enough that I have gathered resources for myself that might possibly ensure that I can live a freelance livelihood doing what I like, but I know that's a very privileged position, and I know that a lot of undocumented queers don't have the opportunity or the option to rely on their status to survive.

May 31, 2018

ICE Repudiation of Its OWN Rules Are Placing LGBT Detainees At Risk

The perimeter fence of the T. Don Hutto detention facility of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement center is seen.
Getty/Corbis//Robert Daemmrich Photography IncThe perimeter fence of the T. Don Hutto detention facility of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement center is seen. 
Laura Monterrosa is a queer asylum seeker from El Salvador. After being targeted by homophobic gang violence and having her life threatened, she decided to seek safety in the United States. In May 2017, she presented herself at the border, seeking asylum, and was detained at the T. Don Hutto detention center, an all-women immigration detention facility run by the private prison company CoreCivic. In November, she reported to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that a guard had sexually abused her on multiple occasions. After ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility and the local sheriff’s office looked into the allegations, ICE closed her case, saying that her account “could not be corroborated” and “lacked evidence to pursue any further action.” Laura’s attorney reported investigators even asked if the relationship with the guard was consensual. After ICE closed the case, the FBI intervened and picked up the investigation. Despite a pending FBI investigation into these incidents, ICE would not release Laura—nor would it fire the guard. Laura remained trapped inside Hutto with her alleged abuser. Desperate, Laura ingested 51 prescription pain pills in an attempt to kill herself. In February 2018, ICE reportedly placed her in isolation for three days, during which time she claimed ICE tried to get her to recant her accusation of sexual abuse. A month later, Laura was finally released from detention after a judge orderedICE to provide mental health care outside the detention facility.
The Center for American Progress received information about ICE’s treatment of LGBT immigrants in detention for fiscal year 2017 from a congressional letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen from Rep. Kathleen Rice’s (D-NY) office. This information reveals that LGBT immigrants are being held in detention for long periods of time, in unsafe conditions, and at a far greater risk of sexual violence than the general population. These facts indicate that Laura’s story is not unique under the Trump administration’s policy of treating every unauthorized immigrant as a deportation priority.

LGBT immigrants in detention report high rates of sexual assault and sexual abuse

ICE’s 2014 Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) regulations require an annual publication of sexual assault data. Making the data publicly available is important as a means of helping advocates hold ICE accountable for its response to sexual assault in detention. While ICE has not yet publicly released any of the required annual data since 2014, Rep. Rice requested data from ICE on sexual assault of people in detention, and these findings are staggering—even compared with the high rate of sexual victimization of LGBT people in U.S. jails and prisons. ICE reported to Rep. Rice that it received 227 reports of sexual abuse and assault in FY 2017. Twenty-eight of these reports involved an LGBT victim. In FY 2017, ICE detained 323,591 people. ICE reported to Rep. Rice that in FY 2017, 467 immigrants disclosed being LGBT during intake to a detention facility. This means that although LGBT people were 0.14 percent of the people ICE detained in FY 2017, they accounted for 12 percent of victims of sexual abuse and assault in ICE detention that year. In other words, assuming each report of sexual violence is substantiated and involves a separate victim, LGBT people in ICE custody are 97 times more likely to be sexually victimized than non-LGBT people in detention.

ICE is housing transgender immigrants in unsafe situations

ICE is placing LGBT immigrants in harm’s way by not releasing them from detention when they should be and has reverted to its practice of detaining transgender women with men or in solitary confinement, contrary to its own rules. In recognition of their heightened vulnerability to sexual abuse, DHS’ PREA rule requires an individualized placement determination for transgender people. In its response to Rep. Rice, ICE claims it is making these assessments. However, the custody data that Rep. Rice received indicate this is not the case. Despite the continued existence of an Obama-era memo on caring for transgender immigrants, not one of the nearly 250 facilities ICE detains immigrants in is bound to comply with this guidance. Rather than automatically applying across DHS detention facilities, this guidance requires a contractual agreement with the facility. ICE opened a pod for transgender immigrants in Cibola County, New Mexico, but that facility’s contract with ICE does not include a requirement that it comply with the transgender care memo. ICE reported to Rep. Rice that it detains transgender women in 17 facilities. Four are all-male facilities. Thirteen have a mix of male and female populations. Except for the transgender pod at Cibola, ICE has not provided information about whether ICE detained transgender women with other women, with men, or in isolation in these facilities. The average amount of time transgender people were detained in FY 2017 was 99 days, more than double the 43.7 day average all immigrants spent in ICE custody. With nearly 80 countries criminalizing LGBT people, the extended period of time they spend in detention may be due to waiting for a judge to review their cases for relief from deportation, such as asylum.
Rep. Rice’s office also obtained information about the use of solitary confinement for LGBT immigrants in detention. In recognition of the risks that come with placing vulnerable populations, such as LGBT people, in solitary confinement, ICE’s own rulesstipulate that solitary should only be used as a last resort. In those cases, solitary confinement should “not ordinarily exceed a period of 30 days.” According to Rep. Rice’s office, 1 in 8 transgender people detained by ICE were placed in solitary confinement in FY 2017. The United Nations recognizes the placement of LGBT people in solitary confinement for their own protection as a form of torture. After 15 days, solitary confinement may cause irreversible psychological damage. According to the information that ICE provided Rep. Rice, LGBT immigrants who were detained in solitary for more than 14 days spent an average of 52 days in solitary confinement.

ICE must stop wasting resources on detaining vulnerable populations

Rep. Rice’s office emailed ICE on February 14 asking how it could justify expending its limited detention resources on vulnerable populations such as LGBT people. Rice’s office shared this exchange with CAP, including ICE’s reply, which was dated April 3:
ICE is committed to faithfully executing our duty to enforce immigration laws. In Executive Order (EO) 13,768, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, the President directed that ICE “[m]ake use of all available systems and resources to ensure the efficient and faithful execution of the immigration laws of the United States.” 82 Fed. Reg. 8799 (Jan. 25, 2017). As made clear in former Secretary Kelly’s February 20, 2017 memorandum, Enforcement of the Immigration Laws to Serve the National Interest, “the Department no longer will exempt classes or categories of aliens from potential enforcement.” To that end, in EO 13,767the President directed that the “Secretary shall immediately take all appropriate actions to ensure the detention of aliens apprehended for violations of immigration law pending the outcome of their removal proceedings or their removal from the country to the extent permitted by law.” 82 Fed. Reg. 8793, 95 (Jan. 25, 2017).
This response indicates that ICE does not prioritize how it expends its enforcement resources and no longer meaningfully takes into account the threat that detention poses to vulnerable populations, such as LGBT people, in making its custody decisions. This is reckless and unacceptable and will lead to more LGBT people being sexually victimized on ICE’s watch.


The Trump administration’s policy of detaining immigrants without parole or bond pending the resolution of their case or deportation—combined with its rejection of policies meant to protect vulnerable populations from abuse in detention—has led to horrifically high rates of sexual abuse and solitary confinement of LGBT immigrants. Not only are these abusive conditions inhumane, but they are also in violation of the department’s own rules implementing the PREA. ICE must end its dangerous practice of arbitrarily detaining LGBT people in unsafe conditions and ensure that its standards, guidance, and rules are rigorously enforced.
Sharita Gruberg is the associate director of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at the Center for American Progress.

May 30, 2018

33 Yr Old Transgender From The "Caravan" Dies While in ICE Custody

Luc Forsyth
Roxsana Hernandez, 33, who died in ICE custody Friday after arriving in the US with the Central American migrant caravan.
A transgender woman who was part of the caravan of Central American migrants that arrived at the US border earlier this month died in custody Friday from what appeared to be cardiac arrest.
Roxsana Hernandez, 33, died in the custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at a hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She had been taken to another hospital in New Mexico more than a week earlier with symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration, and complications associated with HIV.
Hernandez asked for asylum at the San Ysidro port of entry on May 9, according to Pueblo Sin Fronteras, which organized the caravan. The group said she was first detained by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in holding cells known as "iceboxes" because of how cold they are.
In addition to being cold, Pueblo Sin Fronteras said, Hernandez lacked adequate food and medical care and was held in a cell where the lights were turned on 24 hours a day. On May 16, she was then taken to a transgender unit at the Cibola County Correctional Center, a federal prison facility in Milan, New Mexico, that contracts with ICE.
The following day Hernandez was admitted to Cibola General Hospital and was later transferred via air ambulance to Albuquerque's Lovelace Medical Center, where she remained in the intensive care unit until she died on May 25. The preliminary cause of death was cardiac arrest, according to ICE.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News last month, Hernandez said she had fled Honduras in part because of the discrimination and violence she faced for being transgender.
Four months before joining the caravan, Hernandez said, she was walking home when MS-13 gang members started screaming "We don't want you in this neighborhood, you fucking faggot" at her before gang-raping her.
"Four of them raped me and as a result I got HIV," Hernandez told BuzzFeed News. "Trans people in my neighborhood are killed and chopped into pieces, then dumped inside potato bags."
Standing in front of a church in Puebla, Mexico, playing with a silver cross around her neck, Hernandez said that gangs had continued to threaten her and told her she had to leave the area where she lived in Honduras.
"I didn't want to come to Mexico — I wanted to stay in Honduras but I couldn't," Hernandez said. "They kill trans people in Honduras. I'm scared of that."
Hernandez said she was able to put some money together to head to Guatemala. Her plan was to return to the US, from which she had previously been deported three times. She had some family in the US but said they did not accept her because she was trans.
From Guatemala she went to Mexico, where she eventually linked up with the caravan of 1,200 to 1,500 migrants heading north.  Hernandez  explained she left Honduras because of fear because she was Transgender.  
Immigrant advocacy organizations — including Pueblo Sin Fronteras, Diversidad sin Fronteras, and Al Otro Lado — blamed Hernandez's death on US immigration authorities.
"Roxy died due to medical negligence by US immigration authorities," the groups said in a statement. "Why incarcerate and torture her like this? She had a home waiting for her in the United States. They could have let her go there. If they had, she would still be with us."
Irving Mondrag贸n, a cofounder of Diversidad sin Fronteras, a collective of LGBTQ migrant advocates, said immigrants are denied medical attention inside CBP holding cells.
"Everybody's human rights are violated. From the moment they enter there are no guarantees," Mondrag贸n told BuzzFeed News. "People have said that she was safe because she made it to the US, that the hardest part was over. But it's not true — the US is an imperial democracy and tyrannical. Asking for asylum can lead to death."
Mondrag贸n said Hernandez had been sick when she turned herself in to US border authorities but was in good spirits.
"She told me she loved me. She had courage, but was nervous at the thought of entering the US again," Mondrag贸n said. "I'll remember her as a timid, respectful person, always giving the other girls advice and sharing her food."
Mondrag贸n said he's worried about the other trans women from the caravan who remain in detention, many of whom are on medications for hormones and at least one who is taking medication for HIV.
In a statement announcing Hernandez's death, ICE said comprehensive medical care is provided to detainees for the duration of their stay at the agency's detention centers.
"All ICE detainees receive medical, dental and mental health intake screening within 12 hours of arriving at each detention facility, a full health assessment within 14 days of entering ICE custody or arrival at a facility, and access to daily sick call and 24-hour emergency care," the statement said.
Hernandez was set to be deported without seeing an immigration judge, a process known as expedited removal, ICE said.
Hernandez had entered the US illegally twice between 2005 and 2009, and was granted voluntary return to Mexico because she claimed Mexican nationality to authorities, according to ICE's statement. She later entered the US illegally a third time and was deported on March 11, 2014, after being convicted of illegal reentry.
ICE's statement also noted that Hernandez was convicted of lewd, immoral, indecent conduct and prostitution while in Dallas in May 2009, and was also convicted of theft while in the US in 2006.
Jennicet Guti茅rrez, national organizer for Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, said Hernandez's record is irrelevant to the fact that she died in ICE's custody.
"They are responsible for her death. Trans women continue to face violence inside and outside detention centers, and are oftentimes forced to do sex work as a means of survival," Guti茅rrez said. "She was trying to find safety in the United States and sadly she’s no longer with us. We demand answers and justice for Roxana.”

Adolfo Flores is a national security correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. He focuses on immigration.
Contact Adolfo Flores at
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March 6, 2018

Because of DACA Franky Needs To Come Out More Than Once, For More Than One Reason

 Frncisco Bautista "Franky"

Francisco Bautista’s birth certificate from his native Mexico has an ambiguous ‘X’ marked in the middle of the two boxes that identify his gender. Right in the middle. No male nor female.
“How do they know? The universe is so funny,” said the 26-year-old. Franky, as he calls himself, identifies as a gender fluid person.  He has a feminine look — women's shoes and a blouse —and switches from English to Spanish when ordering panqueques and jugo de naranja, pancakes and orange juice, at a Denny’s in Oak Lawn.

Being different, Franky faced hopelessness, fear, and shame as he struggled with his identity. Those challenging years have been followed by optimism, confidence, and joy as he’s learned to accept who he is. But Franky lives in two worlds. He’s one of a small group of LGBT people who grew up as unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. He is a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient. Now that safety net allowing many children of immigrants to stay in the U.S. may be taken away. Where once it was hard for him to come out in the macho culture he was raised in, now he is struggling with his feeling of belonging here, and his uncertainty over whether he will ever be accepted as an American.

When President Donald Trump announced the end of the Obama administration’s program to shield some children of unauthorized immigrants from deportation, it was “one of the saddest days of my life.”

“DACA gave me some hope,” he said. “I thought I was never going to be able to grow up until I could start working and providing for myself.” 

Now Franky feels lost in the tug-of-war between saving DACA and Trump’s demand for a border wall in exchange. “I just see we are political toys," he said. "I don’t want to keep my life on hold.” 
The Williams Institute, which researches sexual orientation and gender identity issues out of the University of California at Los Angeles, estimates that about 36,000 LGBT people are beneficiaries of DACA. The Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, estimates that 267,000 immigrants who identify as members of the LGBT community are unauthorized.

"DACA has helped this community to come out of two closets," said Sharita Gruberg, associate director of the CAP LGBT Research and Communications Project. "A community that has been historically invisible because of its immigration status and sexual orientation. For many, DACA gave them the first form of visibility and identification.”

As with all DACA recipients, Deferred Action has meant for Franky the possibility of financial stability, access to schools and jobs and, of course, not being deported. But LGBT youths are at additional risk of returning to countries about which they know very little and where gender discrimination and violence against gays and transgender people can be a serious problem.

Sasha Moreno, an immigration attorney who has represented transgender people looking for asylum in the U.S., said she’s constantly quoting reports to immigration judges about harassment and torture against the LGBT community in countries such as  Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador to highlight the dangers of deporting these kids.

“Mexico has a good amount of LGBT-friendly laws, but it also has the second-highest rate of transgender woman deaths in the world,” Moreno said.
Moreno noted that because DACA recipients entered the U.S. many years ago, and because the bar to qualify for asylum is within one year of arrival, they can’t apply for asylum based on the threat of persecution.

A bittersweet relationship
In an early interview, last fall in Oak Lawn, Franky talked about growing up while discovering his gender identity.
He was born in Matamoros, a city in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas directly across the border from Brownsville.

He remembers the smell of the pl谩tano and fruity trees at his aunt’s house. His father traveled to and from the U.S. to work as a day laborer. When they got together, they would go to the bazaar to see the chicks on sale there, traditionally dyed different colors to amuse the children.
“I was so in love with those animals that I became a vegetarian,” he said while eating a veggie omelet.
He and his two brothers were brought to Texas by his father when he was 5 years old, leaving their mother behind. Franky hasn’t seen her since.

He went to school in Prosper, a small town north of Frisco where there “was nothing but white people."
“Having brown skin and being gay and undocumented, I wanted to fit in so bad, making sure my English wasn't broken, or speaking without an accent,” he said.

He mostly had girlfriends at the time, but he was often alone and enjoyed playing a keyboard, solo, in his room. In high school, he said, he wasn’t doing much but “getting high” on marijuana.
Franky said he never fit into the “Latino macho Mexican culture” at his home. It wasn’t surprising that he and his father clashed.

“I knew I was gay since I was 12 and when I told my father, he was concerned,” Franky said. “As I was always wearing skinny jeans and a tight shirt, he used to have clothes ready for me, saying I need to dress as my brother.”

Franky left home when he was 12 and began a life of couch-surfing. His relationship with his father was bittersweet. They couldn’t show their love for each other except in small, but meaningful ways.
His father bought him his first cell phone and after Franky left home. “Every Friday he would say, ‘Come over, I have some money for you for the week,’” Franky said.

“He didn't know how to be a dad, he didn't teach me things about life, but he was always there. He did his best,” Franky said.
When Franky saw other American fathers, “I was jealous” of the closeness of other families. It seemed like this was how they were supposed to be.

But Franky recognized his father had a rough pathway, working day labor jobs all his life as an immigrant.

A few years later, when his father was ill, it was Franky who helped him, giving his dad money from his first job for medical treatment.

Back from the brink
As a teenager on his own, Franky was adrift but finding himself.

“I went into drugs,” he said. “Starting with alcohol, then weed, people offered me ecstasy, cocaine and finally meth. ... Those were really rough years couch surfing here and there.”
But eventually, he did find comfort in Oak Lawn, the heart of gay Dallas. He said he felt safe walking around in his Daisy Dukes and high heels.

His life changed the day that a friend invited him into a 12-step program. “Daniel — he saved my life,” said Franky.

Daniel Shipman, 44, is a tall, white gay man, but he’s also a masculine Texan to the core. He works in real estate and also helps people recover from addictions through the 12-step program. He became Franky’s sponsor.

Daniel Shipman was Franky's sponsor at Narcotics Anonymous.(Vernon Bryant/Staff Photographer)

“I would have adopted Franky but I met him after he was 18,” Shipman said. “I learned through him that being undocumented is a tremendous struggle, a constant worry about being found out, feeling less than everybody else in the room. It doesn't matter how beautiful, smart, talented you are, you are not equal because you don't have papers.”

Shipman recognizes that his own masculine look and his U.S. citizenship helped shield him from “any kind of discrimination.” He felt Franky’s pain and took him under his wing for almost three years until DACA was implemented in 2012 and Franky got his DACA permit and his first job.
Shipman made sure Franky graduated from high school, made it to his 12-step meetings and helped him get an apartment and a car.

“He set me up for success,” said Franky.
But so did DACA. Before DACA, he said, “being an illegal child really handicapped me.” He had trouble focusing at school “thinking I could be deported or going to jail at any moment.”

Kamal Essaheb, director of policy and advocacy at the National Immigration Law Center, said that fear is well founded.

"The termination of the DACA by the Trump administration is the latest in a series of attacks against LGBT and immigrant people,” Essaheb said.

He noted the "arbitrary detention of hundreds of LGBT immigrants" in U.S. prisons. And he pointed to repeated attacks on protections for transgender people in the armed forces or when choosing public restrooms.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics has found that more than one-third of transgender people held in prisons experience sexual violence.

Losing a father and a dream
Franky has now lived in the U.S. for more than 20 years. He said one of his brothers, Allen, was deported in 2012 and the other, David, was adopted in 2001 by an American family and is now a U.S. citizen.

His father died about two years ago. In the end, he was on dialysis and fighting cancer.
He died in Mexico. Franky couldn’t say goodbye to him. But Franky says he’s grateful that his dad brought him to this country and shaped a better future for him; he remembers the cellphone and the weekly cash when he was couch surfing.

Today, Franky waits tables at a nice hotel. He’s been clean for five years, has two dogs and wants to start a YouTube channel about makeup tutorials. He recently joined the Cathedral of Hope, the LGBT-friendly church where he was baptized.

“The taste of being independent is such a great gift, I don't want to lose it,” he said. “DACA is a glimpse to the American Dream for me. It's the closest I have been.”

Franky’s DACA permit expires in March 2019. Lately, he has felt anxious about not being able to fulfill his dream of becoming a flight attendant and seeing the world.

During his first interview, Franky was getting ready to dress up in a costume from the Rocky Horror Picture Show for a Halloween party. He was going to be “just a sweet transvestite from Transexual, Transylvania.”  
But a few months later, for another interview, he showed up at Denny’s again, wearing a light jacket, jeans, and no makeup.

For a gender fluid person, explained therapist Michael Salas, “the internal experience of what gender is at a certain point of time can vary. ... The fluidity means the person doesn’t feel always as the stereotypical male or female, and it is very defined by the experience on that point. They are sorting out their identity so they passed through periods in which they might feel like one way or another, including feeling the need of becoming a transgender person.”

His DACA status threatened, Franky feels alienated again. He's gender fluid, but the tension is always there.
“I feel like I have to be a boy now,” he said. “I have to be strong for whatever comes.”

Franky at his keyboard. He's been taking piano lessons. . Ben Torres/Special Contributor(Ben Torres/Special Contributor)
Franky at his keyboard. He's been taking piano lessons. . 

Ben Torres/Special Contributor (Ben Torres/Special Contributor)

Dallas News
by Jenny Manrique

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