28 May 2015

Protest Against Treatment of LGBT Undocumented Immigrants In California

Contrary to how some would spin the story, transgender inmates aren't looking for "special treatment".

I don't think any trans person would deny that when one of us commits a crime, we should pay our "debt to society", whatever that may be.  Being trans might drive someone to, say, prostitution (which, I believe, shouldn't be a crime) or even other illegal acts out of desperation or the pure and simple stress of incurring the prejudice we face.  

And I think that most people would agree that if one of the purposes of prison or jail is to rehabilitate people, an inmate should not be tortured or live with the danger of sexual abuse.  I believe that most would also agree that a prisoner shouldn't be thrown into solitary confinement simply because the system doesn't know what else to do with him or her.

Yet all of the things I've mentioned in the previous paragraph routinely happen to transgender inmates.  Some end up in solitary because they've been placed in the system according to the gender they were assigned at birth and the wardens simply don't know how else to keep the inmate from being sexually attacked.  Or, trans inmates might be so placed simply out of spite and hate.

Being confined under such conditions--and having to become, in essence, a hardened criminal in order to survive among hardened criminals--makes recidivism all the more likely.  After all, if you take a person who has no marketable skills or other means of survival and place him or her in an environment in which the choice is between becoming predator or prey--and then release that person into the environment from which he or she came (which could well be the streets), what is that person going to do after he or she can't get legal employment, housing or social services?

That is why 70 protesters chained themselves together in front of the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana, CA.  There, as in other places, undocumented immigrants--especially those who are LGBT, with a particular emphasis on the "T"--are routinely subject to the conditions I've described.  And those inmates, as often as not, have no one to fight for them.

If someone in your family got arrested, you probably wouldn't want him or her to end up in the conditions I've described.  Why, then, should undocumented transgender immigrants be forced to live that way?

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