D.C. police on Tuesday arrested six people during a protest against the detention of undocumented LGBT immigrants.
Officers took Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, Brooke Cerda-Guzman, Joselyn Mendoza, Richard Masson, Dagoberto Bailon and Damian Lima into custody after they refused to leave the intersection of 16th and H Streets in front of Lafayette Park.
The advocates, who had wrapped chains around their waists, were standing or sitting in the intersection near the White House for roughly two hours before D.C. police arrested them. Officers issued them tickets for blocking the intersection and released them a short time later.
Nine others staged a “die-in” to symbolize the undocumented LGBT immigrants who have died while in detention and those they said lost their lives after U.S. officials deported them to their countries of origin.
Sousa-Rodriguez, an undocumented immigrant from Brazil who identifies as queer, came to the U.S. when he was 14. He said during the protest that it “wasn’t easy to be an undocumented person and queer at the same time” because he “had to live with the constant fear of deportation, with the constant fear of detention.”
“People are being tortured in our own country, in detention centers,” said Sousa-Rodriguez, who is the deputy managing director of United We Dream, a group that advocates on behalf of immigrants. “They may be far away from here, but they’re too close to our families, too close to our own lives.”
Mendoza, a transgender woman from New York, urged the Obama administration to close immigrant detention center because trans detainees are “raped, killed and denied their medications.”
“Stop the deportations of the LGBT community and close those detention centers,” she said in Spanish.
Pride at Work Executive Director Jerame Davis is among the more than 70 people who attended the protest that United We Dream organized alongside Casa Ruby, GetEQUAL and Make the Road New York. The National LGBTQ Task Force also took part in the demonstration.
“We have an opportunity to let our president know that although he’s leaving a legacy for LGBT rights, he left some (behind) in the process,” said Casa Ruby CEO Ruby Corado as she spoke to those who had gathered in front of Lafayette Park. “He left LGBT immigrants whose only dream was to survive, to be in a place where they can finally find some dignity. He also left behind an entire transgender community and we sit here to remember the deaths of those who never had a chance.”
The protest took place less than a week after Jennicet Gutiérrez, an undocumented trans immigrant from Mexico, challenged Obama during the White House’s annual Pride reception.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Monday announced new guidelines for trans people in their detention facilities. These include placing trans detainees in custody with medical personnel who are experienced in proving hormone therapy and other trans-specific health care.
“What we need is the liberation of our community,” said Lima before D.C. police arrested him. “What we need is an end to deportation and detention.”
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