How an Undocumented Trans Woman Got Bernie Sanders to Change His Mind
At the same time Donald Trump was proposing blocking all Muslims from entering the country, Senator Bernie Sanders was apologizing to a trans woman for not specifically mentioning the LGBT community in his immigration plan.
The Democratic presidential candidate from Vermont on Monday apologized for not addressing the issues LGBT people face in immigration detention centers in the immigration plan his campaign unveiled last month.
“I apologize for not having dealt with [LGBTQ detention] in our list of particulars,” Sanders said.
The apology came at a meeting the Sanders campaign hosted in its Washington offices to discuss the senator’s immigration proposals.
The campaign invited five undocumented immigrants to the meeting, which was live streamed on YouTube. The guests included a refugee child who said she was fleeing violence in El Salvador, an asylum seeker from Bangladesh, and a transgender undocumented woman whose praises for Sanders’ immigration plan were followed with concerns.
“I want to applaud your amazing immigration plan,” Catalina Velasquez told Sanders. “However I have yet to see a section on LGBTQ detention,” she said.
Velasquez went on to share data discovered by a 2014 Fusion investigation that found U.S. immigration officials hold an average of 75 transgender immigrants in detention every night. The majority of them are women who are seeking asylum and are detained in men’s detention centers.
“We’re facing disproportionate effects in this environment,” said Velasquez, who was born in Colombia and came to the U.S. as a child with her family 2002 seeking asylum.
Of every five victims of confirmed sexual abuse in U.S. immigration detention centers one victim is transgender — an alarming rate considering of every 500 detainees in immigration detention about 1 detainee is transgender.
“I apologize for not having dealt with that in our list of particulars but the issue that you raise is something that I’m more than conscious about and that is the discrimination against transgenders and the LGBT community,” Sanders told Velasquez.
“You have my pledge right now as somebody who believes in a society in which we must end all forms of discrimination that that will become part of our policy,” he said.
After the meeting Velasquez questioned how Sanders would keep his promise if he is referring to transgender people as “transgenders”. She told USA Today Sanders’ use of the term was “demeaning.”
Although the Sanders campaign has dubbed the immigration proposal “families first” the 4,344-word plan does include the term LGBT once.
“A Sanders administration will significantly improve conditions inside detention facilities, especially for vulnerable populations including pregnant women, LGBT individuals, and detainees with disabilities,” reads Sander’s immigration plan.
The plan also states a Sanders administration would promote alternatives to detention and work to ensure that detention centers do not hold families.
At the meeting Sanders also ridiculed GOP presidential candidates who have called for deporting undocumented immigrants. Most notably Donald Trump has proposed deporting the estimated 11.3 million undocumented immigrants.
“The good news is that the vast majority of the people in this country are rejecting the outrageous idea — the un-American idea — that somehow we’re going to sweep out in the middle of the night 11 million people,” said Sanders.
“Very few people think that is right or what America is about or what we should be doing,” Sanders said.
Originally published at fusion.net.