Bamby Salcedo
Remezcla

How The TransLatin@ Coalition is Fighting for the Rights of Transgender Immigrants

Photo credit: Emma McIntyre/Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla

In April 2024, three immigration advocacy organizations — The National Immigration Project, Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network, and American Immigration Council — filed a civil rights complaint against Aurora Contract Detention Facility. It read: “Our clients and medical experts reveal that Immigration & Customs Enforcement cannot safely and humanely incarcerate people who are transgender and nonbinary.” The complaint continues, “Immigration detention negatively impacts their mental health, impedes timely access to gender-affirming care, and triggers prior trauma.” 

This is a trauma that activist Bamby Salcedo — the founder, president, and CEO of The Trans Latin@ Coalition — knows all too well. “The Trans Latin@ Coalition started as a direct response to the needs of trans [Latine] immigrants who were living in the United States,” Salcedo says. “I, myself, was brutally assaulted in immigration detention and am a survivor. In fact, I had to be transported to an outside hospital to be treated.” 

Salcedo’s organization is a nationwide, trans-led nonprofit that advocates primarily for the trans Latine community in the United States. That said, the coalition’s main mission is to provide more access to life-changing services for all transgender, gender diverse, and intersex (TGI) folks.

Remezcla habló con Salcedo for our 2024 Pride issue, which is all about identity. Keep reading to learn about Salcedo and TLC’s fight for LGBTQ+ and TGI rights.

Crashing the System

Bamby Salcedo
Photo Credit: Kevin Cortez/ The TransLatin@ Coalition. Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla
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“In 2005, I went through the horrific experiences of being in an immigration detention center as a trans woman, so I knew the experiences of all the trans women that were detained,” recalls Salcedo. Galvanized by her experiences and the fatality within the trans community, she knew she had to do something.

“In 2009, I called a meeting and we came together to talk about how we were going to address those challenges of our community in immigration detention,” Salcedo says.”We did volunteer work for the first six years. We would visit our sisters in immigration detention, fundraise to put money on their books, write letters to them, connect them to lawyers on the outside, pick them up when they would get out, and connect them to other social services. That’s how we started.”

As they continued to do the work, they realized how much it was helping their community. It was time to scale up and make an even bigger impact, Salcedo thought. “As we were trying to organize and see how we could better the lives of our community, we were also seeing that trans people did not have access to the basic services that they needed.” (Think: healthcare, work, and housing.)

“So our national group got together and decided that we needed to move into doing service provision,” Salcedo says. To that end, TLC advocates for policy change, provides economic and workforce development, runs HIV testing and prevention, and gives legal services to trans Latine immigrants as well as other underrepresented communities.

On Identity and Providing for All Latines and LGBTQ+ Folks

The TransLatin@ Coalition
Photo Credit: The TransLatin@ Coalition/Art by Stephany Torres
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“We cannot be who we are if we don’t identify and really explicitly say who we are as people,” Salcedo says. “So identity is central to all the work that we do. We have to demonstrate to society that we exist and that we’re here to stay as an organization.”

Intersectionality isn’t lost on Salcedo, who strives to weave together several identities when it comes to hiring and helping clients. “As part of our staff, there are people who are U.S.-born, and not, Indigenous, and Black. We want to make sure that we reflect who we are as people, as a community, and also as an organization. The majority, obviously, are Latinas, but we try to really reflect the diversity of our community. We are very intentional in that work.”

Salcedo, herself, identifies as a trans Latina immigrant who is indocumentada, but she still understands that she has privilege. “I’ve had the opportunity to overcome many different horrible experiences, but have been able to turn those experiences into opportunities, not just for me, but many members of our community as well.”

Pa’ ‘Riba y Pa’ ‘Lante

The TransLatin@ Coalition
Photo Credit: The TransLatin@ Coalition/Art by Stephany Torres
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On June 18, 2024, Salcedo and her colleagues presented the findings of the Williams Institute’s Lived Experiences in Los Angeles County Survey and the County Transgender and Nonbinary Survey to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. The report contains several astonishing discoveries in economic and health disparities between LGBTQ+ folks and our heterosexual counterparts, including:

  • “One-third (33%) of LGBTQ+ adults described their household’s financial situation as just meeting basic expenses (24%) or as not having enough to meet basic expenses (9%).
  • Nearly one in three (32%) LGBTQ adults in Los Angeles County live in households that experienced food insecurity in the prior year as did more than one in five (23%) non-LGBTQ adults.
  • One in five (22%) LGBTQ adults in Los Angeles County said they were living with anxiety—far more than the 8% of U.S. adults in the general population.”

TLC is hoping to start to fix a lot of that. Their plan? “We are going to institute trans wellness and equity programs, and we asked the Board of Supervisors to invest $7 million in trans-led organizations and the city to invest $3 million, for a total of $10 million, to ensure that other trans-led organizations have the resources and support that they need in order to support members of our community.” The Board was receptive to their proposal.

Salcedo also shares plans to build a first-of-its-kind, three-story LGBTQ+ center in Hollywood. Here, folks can live, work, create, get physicals, sexual health screenings, and all the other services often denied to them on the basis of sexuality or gender. “We are in the process of actively fundraising to ensure that we have our new center in three years. Not only are we going to expand our services, we are also serving as the reflection of the possibilities of our people,” Salcedo says.

Having spoken to Bamby Salcedo, her staff, and TLC clients and volunteers, I’m hopeful for the future of LGBTQ+ and TGI folks in LA and nationwide. The people who have used TLC as a resource will tell you, it’s no coincidence the coalition’s initials also stand for tender love and care. Y todos necesitamos más de eso, ¿no?

This post is part of Remezcla Pride 2024: Identity Edition. Read more here.