By Erik Garcia
Activists (myself included) took to the streets of SanTana on Thursday demanding the release of the remaining transgender womxn detained at Santa Ana city jail. We marched on La Cuatro in downtown SanTana and took Sasscer Park, where members from Orange County Immigrant Youth United (OCIYU) and Immigrant Youth Coalition (IYC) spoke on the need enhance the voice of undocumented transgender womxn who were detained in the cages some city leaders claim to be a model for other facilities.
The voices of the womxn themselves proved most important as they relayed experiences of the jail’s inhumane conditions and psychological trauma that comes with being incarcerated. One womxn went so far as to say that she was convinced that there is nothing in life she will ever endure that could possibly be worse than being detained. No matter how much we advocate and support, we will never truly understand the suffering of the undocumented trans community, who are, in many cases, seeking asylum in the United States.
After hearing truths and revitalizing our need to take direct action, we walked from Sasscer Park toward Flower Street, then down Santa Ana Boulevard. Eventually, we took the intersection on Flower and Civic Center Drive chanting, “If we don’t get no justice, you don’t get no peace.” This slogan is everything to our cause. We seek justice for our community. We seek liberation from detention. We seek a change to the criminalization of undocumented communities, especially the trans community.
After shutting down the intersection, we marched on the Santa Ana jail where Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is formally ending its detention contract later this month on May 24. The stories of transgender womxn formerly detained there took center stage again. The voices resonated with me, an undocumented cishet male who admittedly will never truly understand the struggle of a detained transgender womxn. Even with that, people like myself have a duty to ensure their struggle doesn’t go ignored.
The Santa Ana jail is hailed by some of city leaders as a model facility for transgender immigrant detainees but no place that cages people, even in trans-specific pods, is humane no matter how much dressing pols put on it. The testimonies outside the jail and at past Santa Ana city council meetings contradict the praise. We’ve heard the experiences of transgender womxn and their cries of suffering. We’ve heard of the inadequate health care provided. We’ve heard of the abuse by some officers. We’ve heard of the unbearable food.
Despite all that we’ve heard, we refuse to listen. Everyone wants to advocate for the “Dreamer.” The student who didn’t have a choice when brought to this country and is attending college, seems to be the only palatable narrative for advocacy. But what about womxn like Mary, who ICE plans to transfer from Santa Ana jail to a detention facility in New Mexico TODAY?
If we don’t advocate for Mary’s release and others like her, who will?