In some ways, Bamby Salcedo is the quintessential symbol of the old-fashioned American Dream — the dream that promises second chances and a life rewarded for service and authenticity. Salcedo survived a poor childhood with a working single mother and abusive stepfather in Guadalajara, Mexico, juggling school, crime, gangs, drugs and LGBT friends. The cycle didn’t change when she immigrated to America, where she endured homelessness and a crystal meth addiction, surviving as a sex worker.
But those experiences served Salcedo when she got clean and sober and started doing HIV prevention and education for Latina transgender sex workers and others at Bienestar, under the mentorship of Maria Roman. She could share her pain and the knowledge she gleaned as a survivor. Steadily, Salcedo expanded her experience and service, including running a transgender youth program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and holding traffic-stopping protests around the murders of trans women of color.
More recently, Salcedo has been helping and mentoring the Immigration Youth Coalition, an LGBT-inclusive organization of undocumented youth fighting for immigrants’ rights and against criminalization.
“The broader LGBT movement doesn’t really understand the issues, needs and policies of LGBT immigrants and undocumented individuals,” Salcedo, who also survived as a trans woman in an ICE detention facility.
In addition to fending off the unchecked and sometimes violent homophobia and transphobia of the ICE arresting officers, the detention guards and other inmates, LGBT immigrants and undocumented individuals don’t have money to post bail.
“We’re not powerful monetarily,” she says. “We have to keep tapping our own community when many of us are struggling ourselves to meet our own basic needs.”
The activists struggle to raise money to get people out on bail who’ve been caught up in ICE sweeps—or targeted like Claudia Rueda, a “fierce” DACA-eligible college student and immigrant rights activist who, the Immigration Youth Coalition (IYC) says, “was kidnapped by Border Patrol days after they conducted a raid on her apartment complex.” First ICE took her mother, but upon her release, the youth claim ICE came back for Claudia as retaliation.
IYC’s Jonathan Perez has been organizing to put pressure on ICE in San Diego to exercise prosecutorial discretion and release Claudia to her family. (Call 619-557-6117 and ask for ICE field office director Gregory Archambeault.)
It is also important for supporters of undocumented LGBT immigrants to “pack the court” whenever there is a court date. “If there is community support, a judge could do the better thing, like giving lower bail bonds,” Salcedo says. “The LGBT and immigrant communities need to understand that queer immigrants are being criminalized and arrested and put in detention for who we are.”