Violence against transgender women is on the rise. Last year, the transgender community was hit with the worst murder rate in recent history. We lost 26 transgender women. Most of the victims were Black and Latina trans women. This year, we have already lost three of our sisters due to transphobic violence. And we continue to be targeted by violence by the police state and Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) state.
Undocumented trans women make the difficult journey to come to the United States because of the daily violence they face back in their home countries. It is so devastating to hear that ICE has detained Ms. Gonzalez, an undocumented trans woman, after she tried to seek protection from domestic violence in El Paso, Texas, last week. Ms. Gonzalez’s arrest by ICE is another clear example of the ways transgender women of color continue to be targeted and criminalized.
We as a community need to fight back and protect all undocumented immigrants, including transgender undocumented women, against deportation and detention.
No detention centers can guarantee the safety and protection of transgender undocumented women. There have been numerous reports of sexual and physical violations inside detention centers — including at the transgender pod in the Santa Ana City Jail, which is the country’s first official separate unit for trans people who are detained for immigration.
Last year, Human Rights Watch released an 80-page report entitled “Do You See How Much I’m Suffering Here?” It includes interviews and testimonies from transgender immigrant women about abuses that occurred in detention centers. It is important for people to understand that transgender undocumented women are subjected to harassment, physical abuse and sexual abuse while in detention. These cages cannot provide the protection that many ICE officials claim they do.
When ICE arrested Ms. Gonzalez, she was at the El Paso Courthouse in order to obtain a protective order against a man who was abusing her. (In fact, reports indicate that the abuser may well have been the person who informed ICE that Gonzalez would be at the courthouse that day.) As we navigate this hostile society, many of us seek protection to stop violence and abuse we experience in our lives. It is alarming that any one who is seeking protection from any type of abuse is met with an arrest and a possible order of deportation. This is state-sanctioned violence.
We have a moral responsibility to put an end to the torture and abuse of undocumented trans women. And we have an obligation to join in solidarity and protect Ms. Gonzalez.
This is a call to all caring people to listen and pay attention to what is happening to undocumented transgender women. We especially need the backing of the mainstream immigrant and LGBTQ communities right now. We are one of the most vulnerable populations, and we need real support from our communities and organizations. You have a duty to support Ms. Gonzalez, all the transgender undocumented women currently detained in immigration detention centers, and all undocumented immigrants, until we dismantle ICE and the police state.