No Pride in Detention: Trans immigrant community organizer urges Biden to support LGBTQ asylum seekers

A trans immigrant community organizer, Jennicet Gutiérrez, declines President Biden’s invitation to the annual Pride Month celebration event, in order to protest the mistreatment of LGBTQ+ asylum seekers in ICE detention.

Video Transcript

- It's the end of June, another Pride Month in the books. As part of this year's celebration, President Biden signed an executive order that takes steps aimed at shoring up equality for the LGBTQ community in the US.

JOE BIDEN: My order will use the full force of the federal government to prevent inhumane practices of conversion therapy.

- But for some of the activists invited, like Jennicet Gutierrez, there was something missing in the White House celebration.

JENNICET GUTIERREZ: We just felt such an empty invitation that didn't really mean anything. And right away, my instant reaction was, no. How can they join a celebration when you have been in power for way too long, even before you became president, and you haven't done enough for LGBTQ people. You haven't done enough for women's rights issues. You haven't done enough for racial justice.

I was actually at the similar reception in 2015 under President Obama, and Vice President Biden at the time was there too. And when I was in that space, I went with the mission, right, to challenge the Obama administration.

BARACK OBAMA: Over the year, we've gathered to celebrate Pride Month. And I've told you that I'm so hopeful about what we can accomplish.


BARACK OBAMA: Yeah, hold on there.

JENNICET GUTIERREZ: Release all LGBTQ detention centers.

- Gutierrez is the co-director of Familia, an organization that advocates on behalf of transgender and gender non-conforming immigrants.

JENNICET GUTIERREZ: No one should be dying while seeking protection, while seeking asylum in this country, right? The country that wants to scream to the world that they respect democracy and human rights.

- The hardships of trans people in ICE prisons have been well documented since the Obama administration. A 2013 government report shows that nearly one in four substantiated cases of sexual assault in ICE detention involve a trans victim with multiple cases of trans women being abused by guards.

JENNICET GUTIERREZ: I hope that he listens to the demands of the community, which are very clear. It's to release trans people, to release people living with HIV or any medical condition because there is evidence that trans women have died in custody. And we list the names we're still seeking for justice-- Roxana Hernandez, Victoria Ariano, and Joanna Medina.

- Data shows that trans detainees are routinely placed in solitary confinement, sometimes for weeks or months on end for, quote unquote, "their own protection." In recent years, two trans women who had HIV died from being denied medical care.

JENNICET GUTIERREZ: I couldn't be listening to the president and pretending that this reality that he's ignoring doesn't exist because that's what I feel people who chose to attend. But to me, it's just like, you're being complicit in some way when you know people have been speaking up and saying all these injustices that are taking place. And you're still choosing to go and take selfies with the president.

- That's why Gutierrez, a proud trans immigrant community organizer, born and raised in Jalisco, Mexico, says Pride Month should be more than just celebrating and hopes her message to President Biden is clear.

JENNICET GUTIERREZ: The priority is to support organizations who are providing critical services that the government should be providing, or at least injecting money, funds to sustain the program, to sustain the support to different communities that desperately need it. And to me, that makes more sense than to get in front of the mic and say, I see you. I'm here with you, and I will fight with you.