[ 10. Sep 2007 ]

Vigil for HIV+ transwoman who died in ICE custody

Vigil in Los Angeles, 27. Aug 2007

Victoria Arellano, 23, died on July 20, 2007 while in the custody of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). She was denied medications necessary to treat HIV. On 27th of August 2007 protestors honored Victoria's life and demanded attention to the denial of humane medical care being given to immigrants in ICE detention.


Victoria Arellano was a 23 year old transgender woman who died because she was denied medical treatment for HIV-AIDS while in detention for her immigration status.

Tonight's vigil (on 27th of August 2007) was intended to honor Victoria's life as an immigrant, a person with AIDS, and a transgendered woman, and to bring attention to the denial of humane medical care being given to immigrants in ICE detention. The vigil speakers will also demand accountability for her needless death by calling on Congress to conduct an independent hearing into the circumstances surrounding her death.

Coalitions and allies need to be made between groups who may appear to be different, but are all really longing for the same ideals, and are being hurt by the same enemy.

In this case, immediate bonding must take place between LGBT communities and immigrant communities. Both parties are under attack by the same inhumane right wing. Recently, the political wedge was the same sex marriage issue, now it's becoming the immigrant issue. These items are what the right wing is using to steer right wing voters to the polls. And we all need to take a stand together in solidarity, NOW, because there should not be so many little teams all independently fighting against the same "big bad" team, but one new and improved team, consisting of all the little teams coming together to mobilize as ONE, to dismantle this "big bad" team, which is only so "big" because we allow it to be so by being so divided.

In mid July, trans woman Victoria Arrellano died in immigrant detention. Arrellano had AIDS, and was living due to the medication she was receiving, however, once detained; she was not given the right medication, although she repeatedly asked to see the doctor. Arrellano knew exactly was her prescription was, in fact, it is well known in the medical field what the treatment for her disease is. She pleaded to her captors for mercy, and was denied. She spent the last weeks of her life begging to live, as her body was ravaged by the virus. Instead of a nurse, her fellow detainees cared for her the best way they could, and they even protested for her right to be treated by chanting "" over and over again. Her being trans was overlooked by the inmates, and the movement that stirred all the detainees to action was that of humanity, which should bind all of us, regardless of our supposed differences. Sadly, even the entire group's voices were ignored, and Victoria passed away in a hospital due to lack of medical treatment.

Arrelano had once been a patient of the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center's state of the art AIDS clinic. Lorri L. Jean, the Chief Executive Officer of the Center, stated "Given today's medications, people with HIV at the stage that Victoria was at do not decline that quickly. And I have no doubt in my mind that Victoria died because she was denied the medications that she needed to stay alive". Jean and her staff recently had a meeting with U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) to discuss what happened.

Unfortunately, this outrage is not an isolated incident, in fact, 3 other deaths were reported in the same week in immigration detainment through out the country. There have been over 60 cases (reported) total. But what makes this particular case so strong, is that Arrelano was in detention for weeks, long enough for them to know how to treat her, but instead, she was just shackled to her bed, as she vomited. The appalling and horrendous conditions of the medical treatment of immigrants being held in custody is unconstitutional, and barbaric, and will have to be revised. The lack of standards system responsible for these senseless deaths (one would dare say murders) needs to be examined. There has to be accountability for these tragic losses and the authorities need to enforce action. A independent/public investigation and oversight needs to be done by the federal government on Victoria's death, because an investigation from only the immigrant department will not be sufficient (because they would basically just be doing an investigation on themselves, and we know what that means- are they really going to want to incriminate their own people?!). Pressure needs to be placed on Congress members to protect the human rights of immigrants, even if they are in detention. Yes, many Congress members will find it politically risky to stick up for immigrants, but if enough people urge them to, it will make a difference. Please ask your Congress person to have this case investigated.

Again, all oppressed people will be so much stronger in their quest for freedom and respect if we just realize that our causes are all so similar, and devote time and energy to what appears not to be just our specific struggle. We all are pieces of the same puzzle...all connected. Once we act in accordance to this, the swifter and more productive our victory/Victoria over tyranny will be. Victoria's death has given more birth to the strong and powerful alignment of the LGBT and immigrant communities, which will help weaken the dark forces that want to persecute us all.

This article was published first on 27. Aug 2007 @ ::