Jessica Hoffmann

Arellano Was One of (at least) 3 to Die in Federal Immigration Custody in a Month

Filed By Jessica Hoffmann | August 15, 2007 2:01 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: brownfemipower, Culture Kitchen, health care reform, HIV/AIDS, immigration detention centers, intersectionality, medical care, solidarity, transgender, Victoria Arellano

Why aren't more queer, feminist, and other radical media makers mentioning it?

Victoria Arellano/Arrelano (the spelling of her name varies from story to story), a trans woman with AIDS who died in a California immigration facility for men in July after being denied medication and otherwise improperly treated, was one of three immigrants to die in federal custody in a month, according to the Washington Post. The others were a 38-year-old pregnant Mexican woman who died in a Texas facility and a man whose family "implored authorities to give him medicine for his epileptic seizures in Rhode Island." More than 60 people have died in immigration detention facilities in the past several years.

And even beyond those who have died, the stories of medication refused despite pleas from detainees and their families and allies can't not bring to mind the stories of the parents who were separated from their children so fast they couldn't even make arrangements for them to be picked up from daycare in the New Bedford immigration raids in March -- among them breastfeeding mothers whose children were left sick and crying with childcare workers who had to take them to the hospital. (See strong and insistent coverage, including video footage, via brownfemipower's Woman of Color Blog.) Keep in mind that this is happening to people whose legal recourse is severely limited to nonexistent. [more after the jump]

When the New Bedford raids happened and the big feminist blogs failed to cover what was happening to immigrant women forcibly and rapidly separated from their breastfeeding children, brownfemipower and other woman-of-color bloggers persisted in telling the story and calling out the (mostly white) popular feminist bloggers who didn't. Today, I'm wondering at the very small number of comments on my posts about Arellano/Arrelano here on Bilerico and how few feminist, queer, and other radical bloggers have posted about her story.*

At the same time, the LA Daily Journal's account (via Culture Kitchen) of the support Arellano/Arrelano received from other detainees (who seem to have been more respectful of Victoria's gender identity than many of the reporters who have covered the story) evokes hopeful tears: They "soaked their bath towels in water to cool her fever and used a cardboard box as a makeshift trash can to gather her vomit. 'We all asked the guards for help, to take Victoria to the infirmary but no one did anything,' said Oscar Santander, a fellow detainee."

Immigrants' rights struggles and trans struggles and health-care struggles and feminist struggles and HIV/AIDS struggles--and all other struggles for justice--are interconnected. If we believe in justice, these struggles are ours. Pay attention to what is happening inside U.S. immigration detention centers. Too few of us are, and very many of us should be.

*If you have posted about this and I've missed it (I'm scanning blogs I read regularly and doing Google Blog searches on various spellings of Arellano/Arrelano's name), please let me know.

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Ellen Andersen | August 15, 2007 6:08 PM

Two points about the low number of comments, Jessica. First, comments are traditionally low on Bilerico, despite the efforts of bloggers to get a conversation going. This is odd, because the view rate on Bilerico is very high. So people are reading us, but apparently don't feel ready to engage us in conversation.

And this ties into the second point. It's pretty easy for someone to toss off a comment calling candidate X a f*ck up. But your posts on Arellano are pushing people to think about a much bigger issue than whether Don Imus getting money for getting fired. You're asking us to look at a pretty nasty pattern of human rights abuse in this country. Undocumented immigrants are the new queers -- the "in" group to despise and take up arms against. We're flooding detention centers with immigrants the government asserts are undocumented. Of course they're receiving inadequate treatment. Coping with a such a large and sudden influx of people into an institution is problematic under the best of times. But we (the "real" Americans) have been given permission and encouragement to view Latino immigrants as sub-human -- threats to our national security and our "way of life." No wonder there are horror stories emerging about the treatment (or lack thereof) of detainees. I suspect many Bilerico readers, like myself, simply feel unequipped to say anything sensible about this subject and it's not a post that calls for one-liners.

That doesn't mean you should stop posting. In fact, it means we *need* you to post on this stuff, because it's forcing us to confront facts we'd rather ignore.

Ellen, thanks for your insightful comments. Part of my hope here is to get more people thinking and talking about these issues, which is a first step that may lead to taking action -- whether that means direct action outside detention centers, demanding more media attention to what's happening inside these facilities, making donations large and small to grassroots immigrant-rights organizers, lobbying politicians, or something else. I realize that Bilerico readers represent a range of politics and identities, and that we're not all likely to take action in the same way. One of my hopes is to use this space to try and provoke a diverse group of LGBTQ-identified people to consider the interconnections between various different struggles for justice--not as an abstract/ideological exercise, but because people are dying unnecessarily and unjustly, and I want us to think collectively about how we might respond to that. Thanks again for your note.

There is definitely a trend on this site that postings about (for example just today) Madonna, Bill Richardson, and Big Brother receive more comments than write-ups on the more real issues (not forgetting all issues are relative of course). And, as one might expect (and as Ellen pointed out above), the serious posts do not warrant responses in the form of witty one-liners. I also think another element may be at play: personally, when I read these more serious pieces I tend to agree with the writer and see little value in reiterating the point of the post in my comment. Although, when you first did post about this particular case I did thank-you for reminding me and other readers of the border dwellers.

So, again, you are highlighting a very important issue facing this nation and other western civilized countries: immigration. There are too many layers at work to encapsulate it within one quick summarizing sentence. In this particular story, the focus is on detainnees and the horrible conditions these no-man's land prisoners find themselves in. The thought of being held by a government on immigration issues is horrifying, because you have no rights and no mobilitiy backward much less forward. As I said before: how can it be so easy for governements to continually pick and choose who gets to have basic human rights?

So, in the end, I've posted a comment agreeing with you (again!). But, we are no closer to solving the issue or picketing out on the frontlines. I dare say, most people - 'real' Americans as it was referred to here - are simply ignorant to the struggles immigrants face. A change can be made, and I think you are right to post about this repeatedly in an effort to start making those waves.