UPDATE: Isa was arrested along with four others, who were all released late that evening. At the protest, they learned from women who were recently released from the ICE detention facility that there are currently 28 transgender women being held, including one who has been in solitary for two months.
I might be arrested today.
I am at the #Not1More LGBTQ Deportation Rally, blocking the road in front of the Santa Ana transgender detention pod to demand that Immigration and Customs Enforcement end the torture and rape of trans immigrants who are inside ICE detention centers (watch live here). The story of many transgender communities is one of immigration, and of suffering mental, physical and sexual violence while housed inside ICE detention centers. Transgender women must be on the frontlines of this fight for #Not1More deportation and for the collective liberation of our communities. And our voices must be heard, no matter what, even if it means putting myself at risk of arrest.
Last year, when I attended a major national immigrant rights conference, I found myself in many workshops and plenaries being the sole voice advocating and raising the issues of immigrant trans women of color in detention. There were no trans immigrants leading workshops, or any immigrant trans women of color on plenaries or giving speeches. This has been my experience in this last year – I am one of the few voices nationally bringing attention to the issues immigrant trans communities face, demanding justice, and calling for intentional allyship.
Changing this reality and highlighting the resiliency of powerful trans immigrant women has been a key focus of my work. Adding a trans woman of color lens and deeper understanding of gender strengthens our advocacy. The transgender community has a rich herstory of resistance and existence in the organizing world, and it is time to reclaim that herstory and space.
As a transgender community, we must develop a sense of urgency in responding to the state violence our trans immigrant communities are experiencing in this country. Right now is the time for the Obama administration to release our trans immigrant communities from detention. We already understand the many ways documented trans folks face so much violence and discrimination. As we build violence prevention strategies and move towards having intentional trans spaces, we must also include immigrant communities who are most often left vulnerable to further state violence, with no resources and no spaces to build collective power and safety.
Today I am proud to put my own liberty on the line to advance liberation for all trans immigrants. That doesn’t just mean ending the horrifying abuses transgender women face in immigration detention, although that is a huge part of it. It also means ensuring trans immigrant women are able to live and thrive in this country after they are released from detention. Recently, for example, advocates secured the release of Nicoll Hernandez-Polanco, a young Guatemalan trans woman who had been placed in a detention center with men. Nicoll is now free from the abuse she suffered there, but has no housing, and is staying with one of the activists who organized for her release. That is not a comprehensive plan for liberation for our community. We cannot just shout #FreeNicoll – we must also work towards creating a system to support her and other trans women as they navigate life post-detention.
Racial, environmental, economic, and immigrant justice work is transgender justice work. I believe now more than ever, as I rally here in Santa Ana, that our voices and leadership are needed to strengthen the work so that we may deepen the analysis of oppression that is violently attacking us at every turn.
Post by Isa Noyola, Program Manager at Transgender Law Center.