Yesterday, August 10th, 2017, qdep crossed the Mexican/ Arizona border with one of Queer Detainee Empowerment Project’s (QDEP) long- time volunteers, Gaby, to support the asylum process of the #Rainbow6
The #Rainbow16, 16 Transwomen and gay men from all over Latinx America, were coming to the United States, with the goal of presenting themselves at the border to seek asylum. The #Rainbow16 are all folks that have dealt with incredible violence, specifically sexual violence at the hands of the Mexican Federales, Mexican police, trafficking, forced into sex work, and violence at the hands of gangs and the cartel. This isn’t an uncommon reality for the folks that we work with on a daily basis. But we were so fortunate to be asked to support these folks. As time went on, we realized that there was so much more that we could do. We were asked to come to Nogales, on the Mexican side of the border, and support the chicas and their journey to the border to present themselves for asylum.
QDEP flew- in to Tucson International Airport on August 9th, 2017, late in the night. We went to support the crossing of the border; we felt it was incredibly important to be there, to provide support, and to use our privilege as American citizens to assist in folks presenting themselves at the border, to state that they’re seeking asylum. When we crossed the border early morning on the 10th of August, we saw what the reality was for the #Rainbow16 on the ground. We were able to just walk right into Mexico, no one gave us any trouble, but on the other side, we could see what the militarization of the border truly looked like. The Federals Mexican police were armed with automatic weapons. There were Mejicanx Policia everywhere, which was apparently uncommon, but they had caught word about what was about to happen, and they showed up. It’s important to know that the United States funds the Mexican government for border patrol police like this, so these officers are meant to keep Mexican and Latinx American folks out of the United States.
We walked away from where the Policia were, and went to the apartment of Nakay, as this was where the #Rainbow16 had been staying for the last two weeks. Folks were finishing getting ready, we got into a circle and everyone prayed. We stood in this circle as everyone began to cry, and say a few words after the prayer was over.
Gaby and I held in our emotions, to be there to provide support, as we were told, and witnessed, that the state of the mental health of many of the #Rainbow16 was fragile; some folks that had suicidal ideation, some disassociating. The stress and pressure of crossing the border and the reality of the unknown, parole or detention, seemed to be too much for some of the folks, as it would for any of us. This was a time that made me thankful to not only be an organizer, but to be a social worker. We live in great privilege in America, we can not only live as out queer and Trans people, but don’t have the same level of fear and violence of cartels, gangs, trafficking.
After the prayer and folks said a few words, we took to the streets. Many, many people showed up in solidarity from the American side of the border. We were the only folks from out of the Phoenix/ Tucson area, it seemed. We began the marched and chanted, specifically against immigration, for parole and not for detention, it was incredibly moving. The press conference ensued, and the powerful women talked about their stories, why they are seeking asylum and the importance of their crossing. This is a landmark case. I live streamed all of the footage to Facebook Live, amongst a crowd of many that did the same. The emotional press conference was live for the whole world to see, and is now featured on Democracy Now above.
When we entered the market, that leads to the entry at the border, everyone stopped. Tears and goodbyes ensued, many knowing that this maybe the last time they see one another for a long time, or ever again. We stood back and witnessed the realities of these women and knew that it maybe a while before we see them again. I gave those that I could hugs, and said goodbye, we told them that we would write to them. And then they were off to turn present themselves to the border. We stood and watched from a far as the attorneys took control of the situation from this point and we waved goodbye.
Today, the #Rainbow16 have been transferred to the notoriously dangerous Eloy Detention Center, where there have been recent deaths due to medical neglect. There is talk about transferring them to different parts of the country, but nothing is confirmed.
This Trans/ Gay Migrant Caravan is one of many to come. We should come to the understanding that this will be the new normal, and we will continue to put pressure on Immigration Customs Enforcement to parole out these folks in the most vulnerable spots, and to not detain them in immigration prisons across the country.
QDEP served 30 folks coming out of immigration detention last year. With this new normal, we will continue to have increased number of folks that we will support. We are calling upon you all to support our vital work that we’re doing in the community. QDEP is the only LGBTQI/ HIV+ post- release program that is providing support to these folks. The other sponsors are individual or through faith- based programs.
These women are going to need housing, food, money for public transit every month, and more. And your contribution can help them get on their feet and get these resources they need to find wholeness after this experience. Will you support us in this work? Will you support us in building strong and safe community spaces for Transgender Women and Gay Men immigrants some that are HIV+, from the #Rainbow16 caravan?
If so, please consider a gift. QDEP has decided to sponsor and provide services for two of the people from the caravan. This means when they are released, they will move to New York City, and it is our job to ensure they have a better quality life here. If you want to support the ongoing work of QDEP, please give as a monthly sustaining donor to QDEP. Once these women are released from detention, they will need lots of support. And we hope to have the resources and community support in order to do just that.
Donate to the #Rainbow16 Here.
Watch our live feed videos of the #Rainbow16 at the border here.