DC Trans Coalition Endorses 2010 March for America

For Immediate Release
March 18, 2010
Contact:
Rhodes Perry
(202) 403-7000 / Rhodes.perry@gmail.com

DC Trans Coalition Endorses 2010 March for America
“March Provides Opportunity To Raise Visibility for Trans Immigrants, Refugees and asylum seekers,” Group Says

Washington, DC – The DC Trans Coalition (DCTC) will participate in Sunday’s 2010 March for America, which provides an opportunity for the group to raise visibility around two interconnected and complex issues – transgender, transsexual and gender non-conforming human rights and immigrant rights.  The intersection of these issues continues to be largely ignored and neglected, despite the profound degree of discrimination, humiliation and outright violence trans immigrants endure, all of which jeopardize the most essential rights to life, dignity, and health.

“Tragically, too many transgender immigrants lack culturally competent and understanding legal counsel, or receive inaccurate legal information from attorneys who are not well-versed in this area of the law,” said Alison Gill, a DCTC attorney.  “As a result, trans immigrants fail to obtain immigration documents that correctly reflect their gender identity, file timely or comprehensive applications for asylum, or secure legal immigrant status through marriage to a US Citizen or resident.”

Trans immigrants face additional barriers to the already difficult and demanding legal immigration process. For example, the lack of explicit inclusion of “gender identity” as a protected class for asylum-seekers complicates asylum applications for those attempting to flee persecution. Additionally, many countries continue to require nullification of marriages before recognizing a trans person’s identity, making it more difficult for transgender immigrants to reunite with their families.

Failing to access sound legal advice – and knowing one’s rights in general – leads to increased marginalization of trans immigrants within the U.S., exposing far too many people to exploitation by employers, increased risk of discrimination, humiliation and abuse, negative health consequences of living in the U.S. without legal status, and detention in federal facilities pending removal hearings. Further, many transgender immigrants have experienced rape, sexual assault, harassment and other forms of violence – including the denial of life-saving HIV medications – while incarcerated in immigrant detention center.

“Clearly, more immigration attorneys need to understand the very unique and complex issues trans immigrants experience in particular, and sensitive attorneys unfamiliar with immigration law should recognize that there are good laws on the books addressing treatment of trans immigrants that are unfortunately not enforced and often misapplied,” said Gill.

According to guidelines from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), trans immigrants should be able to access accurate identity documents – i.e. work authorization, naturalization certificates, green cards, etc – in the “outward, claimed and otherwise documented [gender identity] of the applicant.”  Clarification as to what “otherwise documented” is necessary as officials from USCIS enforce this rule inconsistently, typically requiring trans-related surgical procedures prior to obtaining accurate identity documents.  In some extreme circumstances, officials will refuse to correct gender markers on identity documents for individuals who have undergone such procedures for no justifiable reason.

“We believe that no human being is illegal, and that no one should be denied accurate documentation, whether because they are transgender or due to their citizenship status,” said Sadie Ryanne Baker, a DCTC advocate.  “Without such documentation, trans immigrants will continue to be treated inhumanly, and made vulnerable to extreme discrimination, humiliation, underemployment and violence.  We plan to march on Sunday to help raise visibility around these complex issues, in hopes of building stronger coalitions with immigration advocates and ensuring that the good laws on the books are enforced appropriately,” said Baker.

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The DC Trans Coalition (DCTC) is a volunteer, grassroots community-based organization dedicated to fighting for human rights, dignity, and equal access for transsexual, transgender and gender-diverse people in the District of Columbia.

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