"To get to this country, one suffers a lot"

CultureStrike, an organization dedicated to the visual expression of, with and for social justice movements, has partnered with Familia: Queer and Trans Liberation Movement to call out the harms that detainees, including LGBTQ detainees, face in immigrant detention. Artists teamed with detainees, translating the experiences they wrote about in their letters into searing images they hope will do justice to the stories they shared and will encourage viewers to support the immigrant justice movement.

"Crossing the border is the first trauma afflicted onto the brown body and it doesn't end there,” said Fidencio an Iowa based artist who goes by one name and is also undocumented. Fidencio collaborated with a detainee on a striking portrait in front of barbed wire-demonstrating the violence of detention.  “One is reminded of that event just by living, taking up space within the US, and every time I open my mouth to speak English. My art practice simply tries to take all that and make something that no longer resides within my body," he continues.

Fidencio and fellow artist Rommy Torrico say they want people who are not immigrants to understand that as Torrico says "Fighting back to get relief for our people is the only option."  They would also like the LGBTQ and mainstream press to stop repeating narratives that don't work such as the idea of the "good immigrant vs the bad immigrant." These ideas influence policy and leave out, for example, an immigrant stopped for traffic violations or for crimes of poverty and survival which many LGBTQ immigrants fleeing persecution and with few other employment options may commit.

They both point to a lack of historical and present day recognition and understanding of the immigrant experience in LGBTQ and mainstream press. Undocumented communities are hard to count and the Census does not collect information about sexual orientation and gender identity, but the Williams Institute estimates that there are 267,000 LGBTQ immigrants. Documented LGBTQ people are also strongly impacted by the experiences of their undocumented family and community members.

Recently the Supreme Court deadlocked and let stand an injunction against the administration's expansion of two relief programs, one for undocumented people who arrived as children (DACA) and one for parents of DACA recipients. Advocates continue to push for the expansion and await the appointment of a ninth justice to the court and a second hearing. In the meantime, only DACA recipients already enrolled in the program have temporary relief from detention and deportation.

Fidencio is heartened by "the undocumented queer [because the] youth have been pivotal in creating a movement that empowers and uplifts the undocumented, all undocumented, regardless of sexual orientation." Many leaders of immigrant organizing have come out as queer and insist on organizing from the intersections.

The pieces will be featured on the Visions from the Inside website and you can follow Rommy Torrico's (preferred pronoun: they) work on their individual page.