We all have the right to live with dignity, free of harassment and discrimination. For trans immigrants, that right is in danger every day.
In this legislative year in Texas, we have seen attacks against immigrants and against trans persons. For the immigrant community, legislation like SB 4 sparks fear and distrust between immigrants and police. For trans individuals, attempts to police bathrooms to keep people from using facilities that match their gender identity makes it possible for them to be arrested for simply living their authentic lives.
It’s an essential part of life to be able to live as we are and to be true to oneself. But trans individuals suffer a high rate of violence and interpersonal and systemic discrimination. When they seek help from family or police, many times they are rejected or face even more abuse from people who are supposed to protect them. Rejected by family and attacked by police, it leaves for some trans individuals to engage in high-risk situations to survive that they would not otherwise be in if the discrimination did not exist.
That is why it is common for them to have interactions with the criminal justice system and for many, especially trans people of color, to have a “criminal” record. And this gives police an excuse to target them. If they are trans and undocumented, they run a high risk of being deported.
In one scenario, in El Paso, Texas, a trans woman, who was also an immigrant, was detained by ICE when she went to court to ask for a protection against domestic violence. Since she had been deported before, she was on ICE’s radar. Knowing this, her ex-boyfriend, who was the reason she was seeking protection in the first place, tipped ICE of her plans to go to court, and it was then that she was deported.
Under SB 4 and “bathroom bills,” the state of Texas appears to support total discrimination against two groups of people who are simply trying to live their best lives. For the immigrant who is also trans, living at the intersection of both discriminatory pieces of legislation, like SB 4 and the “bathroom bills,” their lives are two-fold complicated when the basic human need to use a public bathroom can lead to an arrest, and when an arrest can lead to a deportation.
We all have the right to live with dignity, free of discrimination. Trans individuals deserve the same rights and protection just as anyone else. As a Latinx community, we know what it is like to face discrimination. So we can acknowledge that there exists discrimination against trans individuals, that it is a problem, and that it is necessary for our government to protect, not hate. We do because it is just and the right thing to do and because it is an issue that impacts us all. When we allow the violation of rights of one group of people, it makes it that much easier to violate the rights of others.
That is why it is our responsibility to resist discrimination against immigrants and trans individuals. It is not solely the responsibility of immigrants, trans persons, or “activists,” but everyones.