Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Plight of Transgender Immigrants

Thanks so much to David for pointing me to "Transgression" (see it here), a short documentary by his friends at the Harvard Kennedy School. "Transgression" tells the story of Norma, a trans woman from Mexico who fled her country because of verbal and physical abuse she suffered in her hometown, including her mother tying her up with rope and trying to beat the "maricón" out of her.

When arrested by immigration officials in the U.S., she was placed in solitary confinement for much of her detention. As is the case with many other detained trans immigrants, officials see solitary confinement as "safer" than putting them with men or other women. Yet as an expert in the film notes (and confirmed in this excellent New Yorker article), for many people, solitary confinement is actually far worse than physical abuse. Being deprived of human interaction, natural light and communication with the outside world for 23 to 24 hours a day was torture for Norma.

Lawyers at Immigration Equality (a legal and policy organization advocating for LGBTQ immigrants) are representing Norma, and in the film they do a great job of explaining that trans (and other) immigrant have far fewer rights in our justice system than people who are being prosecuted in criminal cases. Meaning, alleged murderers and rapists receive better treatment than someone like Norma, who fled her country to escape abuse.

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