When Donald Trump assumed office in early 2017, many people worried that his administration would target illegal immigrants and sexual minorities. He had promised this during his campaign and had garnered support by stirring racist and homophobic sentiments within the conservative white Christian community in the country. Less than halfway into the first year of his presidency, Trump began to make good on many of his threats against illegal immigrants, signing executive orders that reversed important protections for immigrants and enabling Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents take action against them. The worst hit by this executive order are young LGBT illegal immigrants who flee their home countries because of discrimination and the potential threat of death. Often homeless and forced to engage in sex work to survive, the last thing these immigrants (many of whom are minors) need is law enforcement breathing down their necks.
In Washington DC one illegal immigrant is making a difference her way.
Transgender activist Ruby Corado, who was smuggled out of El-Savador in the 1980’s at the height of its brutal civil war and was forced to emigrate to the US after facing widespread homophobia and targeted discrimination in her home country. After a violent attack by an intimate partner in 2009, Corado was forced to enter the welfare system, living in a homeless shelter for a year. After she was awarded a disability check for the year she was unable to work, she started Casa Ruby a homeless shelter specifically for young LGBT persons of colour in the US, with special focus on immigrants like her who often face not just discrimination because of gender and sexuality, but also other problems like delays in integration because of language barriers and inadequate education. For seven years Casa Ruby has taken in several hundred young LGBT persons, offered them shelter, food, education and assistance, even for HIV positive trans and gay sex workers who otherwise have no way to access medication.
Because of the kind of visibility that trans people, especially trans women have to endure in the LGBT community, they often are forced into positions of activism as a means of survival, and because of their sacrifices, the entire community has gained many freedoms and won many battles. Ruby Corado continues in the tradition of those brave pioneers, challenging unfair, racist immigration targeting in Trump’s America.