Six leaders in the LGBTQ+ and immigrant rights movement boldly block an intersection in front of Bernillo County Metropolitan Court, uplift queer and trans migrants Roxsana Hernandez and Udoka Nweke
(Albuquerque, N.M.) Today, over one hundred queer and trans migrants of color provided support as six leaders in the LGBTQ+ and immigrant rights movement engaged in direct action, demanding that ICE and the police be abolished, a stop to deportations, and an end to detention for all migrants.
Kris Hayashi, executive director of Transgender Law Center, was one of the leaders who engaged in direct action. Kris explained,
“This is a moment of moral clarity. Black and brown transgender migrants, fleeing persecution and seeking safety in the U.S., are being locked up, killed through abuse and neglect, and deported back to death sentences by the United States government. It is past time for leaders of the LGBTQ+ movement to do what it takes to hold our government accountable and put our bodies on the line until all of our people are free to survive and thrive.”
The rally and march were hosted by Transgender Law Center, Black LGBTQ+ Migrants Project – BLMP, and Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement (Familia:TQLM). The purpose was to uplift and center queer and trans migrants in the movement to #AbolishICE, with a focus on the experiences of Black LGBTQ migrants who are too often erased from the narrative and political agenda. The rampant physical and brutal treatment that queer and trans migrants face behind bars can be fatal, particularly for people living with HIV. “I’m taking action this morning because there are transgender women in detention who fled violence from their countries only to face more horrific and deadly abuse in the United States,” said Cecilia Chung, of the Positively Trans project of Transgender Law Center. “For trans woman living with HIV, being detained without our life-saving medications is akin to a death sentence. Today, I remember Roxsana Hernandez as I call on our allies in HIV/AIDS advocacy to join the fight for transgender migrants. Our lives depend on it.”
The demands for the rally are visionary, grounded in the concerns of queer and trans migrants, and reflect the reality that queer and trans people of color have been and continue to be the moral compass of most major movements for justice in the United States.Jordan T. Garcia of Familia:TQLM highlights the shift that needs to be made in the immigrant rights movement. Jordan notes,“The movement for immigrant justice is powerful. It’s time for that movement to throw its weight behind Black LGBTQ immigrants and engage in solidarity by uplifting their stories and their leadership. Immigrant detention is inhumane, and we must abolish ICE, prisons, and all systems that cage Black and brown people.”
The demands for the action include:
- We demand an end to the detention and deportation of trans and queer migrants as well as the criminalization of Black people.
- We call on LGBTQ+ and immigrant rights movement to decry anti-Blackness and engage in active solidarity with Black LGBTQ+ migrants by uplifting our presence and leadership.
- We demand the release of all trans people currently detained at all immigration detention facilities around the country, including right here at the Cibola County Correctional Facility.
- We demand an end to all forms of immigration detention and deportation.
- We call for the complete abolishment of ICE and prisons.
Kenneth Reveiz, a leader from Familia:TQLM who sat on a ladder and held a banner for three hours, adds,
“Immigrants are Black, brown, trans, queer, women, workers, people of faith, and beyond. I understand as a brown person that when I uplift Black liberation — fighting against the profound criminalization, state violence, and anti-Blackness that exist in America and globally — I uplift our collective liberation as well.” For Kenneth, this recognition leads to a number of action items that people of conscience must take: “We will continue to take action until #BlackLivesMatter, we #AbolishICE, and we find #JusticeforRoxsana.”
The march and rally are the launch of a national campaign that is also educating the public around #JusticeforRoxsana and #FreeUdoka. Albuquerque, New Mexico was selected as the site of a convening and action to celebrate the memory of and fight for Roxsana Hernandez, a transgender woman from Honduras who was detained at Cibola County Correctional Center and died while in custody. The participants also held space for Udoka Nweke, a gay Nigerian migrant, who is in Adelanto Detention Center. Unfortunately, he’s been detained since 2016 and all he’s seen of the United States is a jail cell.
“Detention and deportation have never and will never be just,” continues Emma Martinez, another brave leader who risked arrest that organizes with Familia:TQLM. Emma adds “We demand an end to the systems of deportation and detention and an abolishment to all prison systems. Our communities, our families, and our people are subject to these inhumane systems because of our brownness, Blackness, queerness. We are here today in community demanding #AbolishICE because we have no other choice.”
And Pooja Gehi, executive director of the National Lawyers Guild, adds, “There is so much emphasis, rightly, on the separation of families, but we need to remember that trans and queer migrants are dying in detention every day. I’m doing this action today in remembrance of Roxsana Hernandez and all LGBTQ Black and brown folks who are currently in cages simply for seeking safety and survival.”
Transgender Law Center (TLC) is the largest national trans-led organization advocating self-determination for all people. Grounded in legal expertise and committed to racial justice, TLC employs a variety of community-driven strategies to keep transgender and gender nonconforming people alive, thriving, and fighting for liberation. transgenderlawcenter.org