Adventures of a Forced Migrant Contact Me
Full text: “That awkward moment when you run away from your home country due to discrimination for being queer…Only to be locked up in the land of the free with a lot of machista, and sexist, homophobic, transphobic ICE officers.” – Alejandro Aldana
Yesterday, I received this bittersweet postcard from my dear friend, Alex Aldana, who is currently detained at the Otay Detention Facility in San Diego.
Alex lived with his family in California for ten years, where he graduated from high school and worked hard to make his community a better place. He left the U.S. to go back to Mexico five months ago to care for his sick grandmother.
Over these past few months, Alex discovered how crime and corruption made life particularly difficult for the LGBTQ community in Mexico. In Guadalajara alone, 128 gay and lesbian people have been killed, and none were reported as hate crimes. Now, Alex wants to return to California, where his mother and sibling reside so that he can continue to take care of them, and lead a life that does not entail the amount of violence he would face if he remained in Mexico.
Even with the heightened standard for credible fear instituted by the new Lafferty memo in light of the numerous claims for asylum from Mexico and Central America, Alex has already passed his credible fear interview. This means that according to Immigration and Customs officials, Alex has established a clear and convincing chance of winning asylum before an Immigration Judge based on his fear of persecution in Mexico. According to ICE guidelines, Alex should be released from detention to pursue his asylum case as he is neither a threat nor a flight risk. However, he has been detained at Otay for more than a month for no real reason, and subjected to abuse inside the facility.
I’ve had a few “fans” — right-wing extremists and some immigration reform advocates — target my home in California.
Last week, someone by the name of “Mauricio Carvallan” posted some of my home addresses online hurling false accusations of “document fraud” and “harboring illegal aliens” along with anti-gay, and anti-Muslim signs. Then, on Saturday night, someone called my home in California asking for my immigration status. My uncle answered the phone, and the person refused to identify himself, insisting on finding out about my immigration status.
If the objective is to threaten and intimidate my family members, all of whom are here lawfully and most of whom are citizens of the U.S., I think the target is a bit ludicrous. If the objective is to harass me, unfortunately, someone needs to do better research.
There are other similar incidents of stalking and harassment that I’ve been subjected to throughout my stay in the U.S. Prior to the incident last weekend, some immigration reform advocates also posted my home addresses online, with false accusations about me organizing a border crossing and voting, in order to incite threats and intimidate.
I don’t see these as isolated incidents but evidence of systemic abuse we are subjected to as queer immigrants in the U.S., and the workings of white supremacy. I have put a tracker on the home phone, multiple trackers on who visits my website, and I’m posting here for the record.
In the meanwhile, if my “fans” wants to find out where I am, just come to Northwest White House lawn where we’re stationed this month, asking the President to deliver administrative relief.
I haven’t been a happy camper lately. Last week was hellish with regards to hate and the last thing I needed was a heads-up that the school isn’t doing all it could do to fight the transphobia that has come about as a result of the Legal Research and Writing (LRW) spring problem. I’ve been given the impression from some peers that the LRW program has been manipulative when it comes to dealing with LAMBDA holding the recommended sensitivity trainings. I don’t really know all the details. The Dean for the LRW program has denied these claims fervently though, expressed her support for LAMBDA Law and she seems to be looking into the situation. Then again, after working in new media for so long, I know a carefully vetted press statement when I see one.
There seems to be a lot of mis-communication. There are rumors of professors saying and doing inappropriate things that may amount to sexual harassment claims. Calling the transgender plaintiff “it” is high up on the list. In turn, several students did not abide by the student code of conduct. I know students who have complained about their professors or are thinking of complaining once the appellate brief is in. Many more will just sit through it all quietly till grades come out. When I found out, I was angry and hurt and of course accusations were hurled back and forth, and it certainly did not seem to help the situation. It did not help me focus on finishing my appellate brief as a whole different problem festered in my mind all weekend long. Several sources now tell me that my angry emails may have helped to kick-start some people into gear and I shouldn’t worry about getting into trouble. That’s not it.
Despite the fact that the LRW program was open enough to take on a sensitive issue such as transgender discrimination under Title VII, my opinion of the school and the way it has dealt with resulting transphobia is at rock-bottom right now. I’m not sure what happened in the past, how much planning and sensitivity went into handling the situation and I don’t think I care to know right about now. The results are evident: some people were hurt in the process, scared to go to school and felt ostracized. I know I spent several days upset and seething. I do want to know what everyone on the payroll at GW LRW is doing to rectify the situation and make sure this does not happen again.
I’m sure most of them mean well and they are also dedicated, hard-working people with absolutely no intention to discriminate. That does not excuse what has happened and I find it deplorable that the program cannot address it beyond just offering to fire people. The problems are directly due to the failure of the LRW program to educate people on the issue. Of course, pointing that out leads to “hurt feelings” amongst administrators. If you are hurt as an administrator, imagine how the LGBT students on campus are feeling right now because the LRW program has not met their needs and they have felt ostracized due to all the ignorance.
Amidst all this hue and cry, we had a hate crime on campus last week because some douchebag perceived a straight guy as a gay male and decided to beat him up. Some people are straight-up defending the hate crime over at the GW Hatchet. All in all, I’m sure the entire LGBT community at The George Washington University is feeling really loved and safe right about now. Not.
After hours of discussion, the LRW program feels that it is not important to provide an avenue for education on transgender issues after creating this problem (and they are probably never going to do a topic like this ever again, using this as an experience)
AND the school administration also thinks it is not so important to rectify the problem to give us 10-15 minutes of class time to do trainings.
- Campus Hate Crime: GW student charged after allegedly beating straight student while using anti-gay slurs (pinkbananaworld.com)
- “Baltimore: Transgender Woman Killed, Discovered in Vacant Home” and related posts (rodonline.typepad.com)
From the Sanctuary:
Ramirez, a father of three, was beaten to death in the streets of Pennsylvania by as many as seven young men who were at the end of a night of drinking. The motive? Judging by the slurs heaped upon him along with the many blows to his body: apparently nothing more than being out at night while Mexican. The teens who ganged up on Ramirez came upon him walking with a young woman, reportedly his girlfriend’s sister. Obviously bringing threat, they asked him what he was doing out at that time of day. Then they set upon him. In the end it was a final hard kick to the skull which left the 25-year-old father convulsing on the concrete with fatal brain damage.
The murder of Luis Ramirez-like the murders of Marcelo Lucero and Wilter Sanchez and Jose Sucuhañay-are but logical steps in the process of defining a subhuman class of ALIEN and inciting anti-Latino violence, which will continue unless marked changes are made in our society. Changes in the immigration dialogue. Changes in the way pundits frame and discuss the issue. Perhaps even more importantly, changes to the fashion in which both Republicans and Democrats pitch and move legislation. The entire “Enforcement Agenda” that directly links immigration status (and thus all Latinos) to criminality, discussed coolly by seemingly rational voices on both Right and Left, is but the socially and politically acceptable umbrella which shields crimes like the murder of Luis Ramirez. The ubiquitous message resonating from coast to coast of this continent, across which peoples of Latin American descent have been migrating back and forth for thousands of years, is that we are in the crosshairs. And that we deserve to be in those hair-trigger sights.
Though it is necessary and a good thing, it is not enough to pass H.S. 1913, the current Hate Crimes bill that has cleared the Senate and is now headed for the House. Nor is it adequate to simply pass the D.R.E.A.M Act (though, again necessary, so please sign), and/or to legalize the immigrants who are working and raising families in the US, and be done with it. These things must be done, and soon. But we must not rest there.
First, we must demand a satisfactory accounting find its way to this unresolved injustice. (Please sign the petition to add your voice.)
This brings back memories of the Gwen Araujo case here in Fremont, which initially resulted in a ‘mis-trial.’ Four teens raped and killed a transgender teenager and the defence purported that it was a ‘crime of passion,’ arguing that Araujo had led the boys on due to her sexuality and they were enraged upon finding out that she was a ‘man.’ Yes, it was horseshit–much like the murder trial of Luis Ramirez is horseshit.
We can punish these teenagers but it is a bandaid, not a cure. We live in a system that legitimates a culture of violence, especially one directed against fellow human beings who are labelled ‘Others’: gay, undocumented, ethnic minority, and so on. Through biopower–identifying, labelling and reifying the position of people in society on some social hierarchal totem pole and designating ‘them’ as opposed to ‘us’–the state reproduces the otherization of difference, and deems certain people as less worthy, less important. Race, being an undocumented immigrant, a homosexual and whatever subgroup or subclass is not a neutral or naturally occuring phenomena. These are all productive mechanisms of enhancing state power: producing hate and also initiating solutions like ‘hate crimes bills’ for that hate. At the end of the day, it is the state that is responsible for the murder of Luis Ramirez, and the subsequent ineffective prosecution of those that are responsible for this heinous crime.
The Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Protection Act passed the House today after 10 years of lobbying and educating that the LGBT community needed protection too.
I have always been divided on hate crimes legislation. On one level, this act of Congress made me feel a little bit more ‘equal’ in terms of rights. I know if someone hates and commits violence against me for my sexual orientation, at least the U.S. House of Representatives realizes that it is akin to hating me for being a woman or a person of color. And I would be lying if I said that it does not matter. It matters to me just like ‘gay marriage,’ which I personally don’t support.
But on another level, the state has absolutely no business in categorizing deviant behavior and differences, and then labeling Others as unacceptable for certain rights and privileges. With hate crimes legislation, political identities and differences are institutionalized rather than discarded.
Yet, it is not a bill that I will publicly stand against.
I wear the Matthew Shepard pendant for Understanding, Acceptance and Compassion quite fondly.
I was in Fiji, 13, and having my first coming out affair when Mathew Sheppard was killed. At that point, I did not really think that I could have a family someday or that I could convince my own family to love me despite my love for someone else.
I remember coming to the United States and going through high school in silence of the hatred that I had faced in school, silent about the ridicule, hatred and violence I faced at home.
I would screen The Laramie Project in school, write passionately for hate crimes legislation and lament quite a lot about how we are not included in federal protections.
Recently I watched Twilight of the Golds, a movie starring Jennifer Beals that explored the hypothetical possibility of knowing your unborn child would be gay. The mother (Jennifer Beals), torn apart by the challenges, considered an abortion even as her own brother (Brendan Fraser) was openly gay. I knew that if it had been possible to predetermine sexuality before birth, I wouldn’t be alive. That is a violence that no one has perpetuated, but that I have internalized; it is routine violence that is constructed with identity politics and hate crimes legislation will do little to prevent that.
Next Post: Routine Violence