Bamby Salcedo has organized way too many vigils for her murdered trans sisters, shared way too many tears and shouldered way too many burdens of dashed expectations to think progress has come quickly or easily to the transgender community in Los Angeles.
On May 29, as President and CEO of the TransLatin@ Coalition, Salcedo called for a vigil to mark the death of Roxanna Hernandez, one of 25 trans women who travelled from Central America to the U.S. border as part of a 300-person caravan seeking refuge from the violence in the countries they fled. Hernandez had AIDS and turned herself in seeking help.
“Jeffry Hernandez, 33, entered ICE custody May 13 in San Diego. Two days later, ERO San Diego transferred her to ERO El Paso, and on May 16 Hernandez arrived at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, New Mexico, where she was housed in the transgender unit,” the May 25 ICE press release says. “On May 17, Hernandez was admitted to Cibola General Hospital with symptoms of pneumonia, dehydration and complications associated with HIV. Later in the day she was transferred via air ambulance to LMC, where she remained in the intensive care unit until her passing. LMC medical staff pronounced her deceased May 25 at 3:32 a.m. (MDT), and identified the preliminary cause of death as cardiac arrest.”
The press release also notes that “Hernandez is the sixth detainee to pass away in ICE custody in fiscal year 2018, which began Oct. 1, 2017.” The agency also insisted it followed proper medical care service protocols, adding: “Pursuant to our commitment to the welfare of those in the agency’s custody, ICE annually spends more than $250 million on the spectrum of healthcare services provided to detainees.”
“Roxana was one of those 25 trans women, who came to seek a better way of life,” Salcedo told a group of about 25 demonstrators outside the US Citizen and Immigration Services field office in Downtown LA on May 25. “And now because she was trying to get a better life, and because she was running away from the violence she experienced in Honduras, she came to the U.S. to find death. The system is the one that killed her.”
Salcedo wasn’t buying ICE’s explanation. “This news release by ICE is trying to diminish and devalue the life of our sister Roxanna!! The fact is, ICE let Roxanna die while she was detained,” Salcedo said on Facebook. “ICE could have sent her to received treatment and care. People do not die from AIDS complications now days. People die because of denial of treatment and the institutional red tape that has been set up for us to not be able to receive the help and support that we need in order to save our lives. The processing standards that ICE has (are) just one more obstacle that impedes for us to be able to receive the assistance that we need while we are in the horrific hands of ICE detention.”
Salcedo called out the inhumanity of the system. “ICE and immigration detention is a murder machine!! They do not care about who we are and why we are running away from our countries. We come here because they say that there is hope in this country. What hope is there when ICE and Homeland Security kill us?” she asked.
“ICE separates us when we disclose that we are HIV+ and Trans. That is what they did to Roxanna—they isolated her to let her die. They did not care for what she needed, the kind of treatment that she could have gotten, because ICE do not even have doctors who know and understand HIV/AIDS. It takes many weeks for one of us who discloses that they are HIV+ to be able to receive the treatment that we need and deserve. ICE is a killer machine! The current administration is creating assassins for pay—that is exactly what ICE does to our community!!!”
Salcedo says Hernandez was isolated “and died by herself, with no one to hold her hand and tell her that she was loved. This exact same experience happened to Victoria Arellano in 2007 when she was murdered by ICE. Eleven years later, history repeats itself. ICE is a murderer! This administration are murders! We remember and honor Roxanna, because #RoxannaVive en nuestros corazones!”
When she’s not challenging ICE or anything or anyone else with anti-trans attitudes or actions, Salcedo runs the first trans-led organization in the country to provide direct services and advocacy to L.A.’s trans and gender non-conforming population through The Center for Violence Prevention & Transgender Wellness. Studies have long shown a disproportionate impact of discrimination and violence against trans and gender non-conforming individuals, resulting in high rates of unemployment, violence, suicide, homelessness, and incarceration.
“We decided that in order for us to empower our community directly, we needed to move into doing direct service provision for our community,” says Salcedo. With a budget just over $1 million and a staff of ten employees, she has already outgrown its new space at 3055 Wilshire Center.
Salcedo’s first grant for her new endeavor came from the Elton John Foundation in January 2016 for a re-entry program providing emergency support services to trans people being released from prisons, jails and immigration detention. Subsequent funding has come from the State of California Workforce Development Board and the City of Los Angeles to connect trans people with skills and training needed for a variety of jobs in California’s hospitality industry as well as develop opportunities for trans people in existing work resource centers throughout the City.
At the start of 2018, the State of California’s Office of Emergency Services began funding support services to transgender victims of violence and Salcedo’s organization is most likely the first trans led organization to receive such funding from the state. The staff will provide case management and victim advocacy, including court accompaniment, assistance reporting crimes to police, and medical visits to clients. They are also in the process of setting up a free hotline for victims of violence to be staffed by a cohort of ten people who will be trained on how to answer calls and provide rapid response. Until the hotline is set up a “warm line” will be in place where victims can leave a message and expect a return call from staff within 24-48 hours.
Vital services also include a Drop-In Center that provides daily lunches; support to survivors of immigration detention and incarceration; leadership development; computer lab; ESL courses and employment and workforce development.
The primary reason Salcedo founded the organization is to respond to the continuous daily discrimination trans and gender non-conforming people experience when attempting to access basic services, oftentimes within the larger LGB community, and to step up and be proactive in addressing these issues.
“We, as trans people, better understand our specific needs and issues” she says. “So we wanted to make sure we address that and have a place where trans people can come and not only access services but also feel comfortable. We are building a safe place that is a family place, a safety net where people can come.” And why not, she notes, after all there are specific places for men, women, youth… so why not a transgender specific place?”
A warm, family feeling permeates Salcedo’s office, with a comfortable room for clients to sit down, relax, eat and have conversations with one another and the friendly staff there to provide peer support and mentoring. Spanish monolingual immigrants will find staff members who are able to communicate with them and support and advocate for them, especially clients who may have just been released from immigration detention. Many of them have fled their home countries to escape anti-transgender violence, including beatings and sexual assaults.
One client, a 22-year old Latina trans woman, learned about The Center for Violence Prevention & Transgender Wellness services through their volunteer pen pal program and financial assistance (money for calls, commissary, stamps) for trans detainees. She came there upon release from immigration detention last year, shattered from her experience and in search of support, which she found. Salcedo emphasizes, however, that non-Latina trans and non-gender conforming people are welcome, as well.
The center is located at 3055 Wilshire Blvd, Ste, 350, Los Angeles, CA 90010. Phone: (833) 847-2331, and through www.translatinacoalition.org.