Transgender immigrants under attack

By Ava Lipatti
March 1, 2017

TransLifeline’s Nina Chaubal.

The U.S. ruling class’s relentless onslaught against the global working class aggressively targets the most oppressed segments of our class. Both the immigrant community and the transgender community increasingly came under fire during Barack Obama’s administration and now even more harshly under Donald Trump’s administration. One population is particularly in danger: transgender immigrants.

Last Dec. 28, Nina Chaubal was detained by the Border Patrol in Arizona while traveling with her partner, Greta Martela. Chaubal is an Indian trans woman and co-founder of Trans Lifeline, a crisis hotline run by and for transgender people. She was reportedly detained because the gender marker on her Indian passport does not match her gender identity and because her work visa had expired, despite being married to a U.S. citizen and despite showing her marriage certificate.

Chaubal was held at Eloy Detention Center in Arizona. Eloy is a privately operated prison run by CoreCivic (formerly the Corrections Corporation of America). LGBTQ detainees in general are 15 times more likely to experience sexual assault, according to a 2013 study by the Center for American Progress; Eloy in particular has a reputation for violence.

Marichuy Leal Gamino, a trans woman detained at Eloy in 2014, was raped by her male cellmate. Karyna Jaramillo, another trans woman detained at Eloy, was denied access to her hormones and antidepressants; she contemplated suicide. Transgender individuals in Eloy are commonly held in solitary confinement. (Washington Blade, Dec. 8)

Chaubal was released six days after her arrest; bail was raised by a crowdfunding effort.

Trans detainees face no protection

Yet another transgender immigrant was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in early February. The woman was at the El Paso County Courthouse in Texas, where she had just received a protective order based on domestic violence reports she had filed. She had filed three reports in total, beginning last October; the most recent incident involved a weapon.

After her court hearing, the woman was followed by ICE agents into the hallway, where they arrested her. County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal said she has never seen ICE agents go into the domestic violence court to detain immigrants in her 20-plus years at the courthouse. Bernal reported there were no state court warrants. She suspects that border authorities may have received the tip from the woman’s abuser. (CBS News, Feb. 16)

The woman, who has been deported from the United States at least six times, is being held at the El Paso County Jail. Sudden arrests like this discourage undocumented immigrants who are survivors of domestic violence from seeking protection.

For U.S. law enforcement, profit reigns over basic human rights. ICE holds more than 60 percent of its detainees at private facilities, according to a November Washington Post article. These private prisons are subject to very few regulations, which means few protections for LGBTQ detainees. Ultimately, this rotten, white supremacist system must be replaced with a system based on human need, rather than profit.