We know that staying up to date on the news cycle can be an exhausting endeavor and we’re committed to helping you stay afloat by presenting current issues in a fact-based, easy-to-digest manner. Each issue of the Current will provide an update on our past coverage, a current news item to pay attention to, as well as an ongoing topic that needs our attention. We’ll also include resources for getting involved as well as self-care tips to help you stay nourished so you don’t get burnt out.
In Issue 11, we share recent developments on the migrant crisis, provide background on the recent protests at Mauna Kea, and discuss ongoing violence against Black trans women.
Content warning: This includes details about migrant detention and related deaths as well as violence against Black trans women.
THE MIGRANT CRISIS
Since we covered the migrant crisis last month, some new developments have occurred:
- In a 5-4 decision, the US Supreme Court authorized President Trump to use military funding to construct the border wall. Read more on BBC news
- Guatemala has agreed to new asylum rules that would require migrants traveling through Guatemala to seek asylum there instead of the US. The agreement was reached after Trump threatened Guatemala with potential tariffs on Guatemalan goods, taxes on remittances sent home by Guatemalans living in the US, and a potential travel ban on Guatemalan nationals to the US. Read more on NPR.
- The number of migrant deaths while in ICE custody has risen to seven since October. Read the Vice report here.
- CBS News reports that unaccompanied migrant children are at risk of spending the rest of their childhoods in federal custody, according to an exclusive interview with the head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), the agency that cares for these children. Read the CBS News report here.
- ProPublica revealed a closed Facebook group with over 9,500 members that’s been active for over three years in which current and former Border Patrol agents were found making lewd jokes about migrant deaths, derogatory comments about Latina lawmakers and posting sexist memes. US Border Patrol Chief of Operations Brian Hastings said that the posts have been turned over to the Department of Homeland Security inspector general. Read the ProPublica report here.
- Democratic Congressmembers including Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Joaquin Castro toured two Texas migrant holding centers and reported overcrowded, unsanitary conditions. Ocasio said that the visit made her very uncomfortable and that agents at the facilities were laughing and trying to take selfies with her. She reported seeing migrants drinking from toilets during her visit. Read more on CNN.
- US Vice President Mike Pence visited the McAllen Border Station, an overcrowded migrant camp on the Texas border, and admitted it’s a crisis that is “overwhelming our system.” 384 men were detained inside the facility and began shouting at Pence and reporters that they had been there for 40 days or longer, were hungry, had not showered, or brushed their teeth. Border patrol agents guarding the cages wore face masks to mask the stench. Read more on Al Jazeera.
If you’re interested in getting involved and working to solve this crisis, here’s a comprehensive Google Doc about Taking Action on Immigrant Detention. Resources can also be found in our original coverage article.
- The construction of a massive telescope atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii’s tallest mountain and dormant volcano, has added fervor to an ongoing debate around Native land rights and ownership. The sacred site is a burial spot for revered ancestors and seen as a place where humans can enter heaven. It’s also considered “ceded land,” which means it’s to be held in a trust to benefit future generations of Native Hawaiians. To astronomers and cosmologists, it’s one of the best viewing spots for capturing a glimpse of the origins of the universe. Two of the eight telescopes used to capture the first-ever image of the super-massive black hole in April are on Mauna Kea.
- Construction on the Thirty-Meter Telescope was scheduled to begin on Monday, July 15, but protectors (as they prefer to be called as opposed to “protesters”) blocked the access road to Mauna Kea on Hawaii’s big island. The protests have lasted for over a week, with a reported 2,000 people joining to form a blockade to the site.
- Kaho’okahi Kanuha, a leader of the protectors, told CNN that there are currently 13 observatories at the top of Mauna Kea and that many of those were promised to be the “so-called last telescope.” The observatories employ about 500 people, but work is on hiatus while protests continue. Read Kahuna’s interview with CNN.
- Last week, Hawaii governor David Ige signed an emergency proclamation that gave law enforcement more authority to manage the situation. Police arrested 33 community elders who volunteered to be the first arrests. They were released almost immediately and given the option to receive a citation if they left the area. Gov. Ige has said that he does not plan to call the National Guard or use tear gas on protestors. Read more on CNN.
- In a small victory for opponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope, a three-judge panel issued a ruling on Tuesday, July 23, to temporarily suspend Gov. David Ige’s emergency proclamation to let a single practitioner travel to the summit to engage in religious practices on the mountain during daylight hours. The ruling could open the door for other lawsuits from those who claim the state of emergency is preventing them from practicing their religion. Read more on local Hawaiian news site KITV.
- Hawaii’s Supreme Court has taken on the case and will begin to hear oral arguments this month.
To get involved, you can submit a public comment to be reviewed by Gov. Ige by clicking here. You can donate to protectors here and find other action items on the Protect Mauna Kea Facebook page. National news coverage has been limited and you can help spread awareness by sharing developments on your social channels.
VIOLENCE AGAINST BLACK TRANS WOMEN
- According to the Human Rights Campaign, 12 trans women have been killed in America in 2019 and all 12 of those women were Black. These women were killed by partners, acquaintances, and strangers, with many of these cases reflecting clear anti-transgender bias. In other cases, the victim’s gender identity might have put them at risk in other ways by forcing them into unemployment, houselessness, poverty, and/or survival sex work. Read HRC’s full article here.
- According to a 2015 report from Unerased, one in 2,600 young Black trans women will die by violence. Within the general population, only one in 19,000 individuals dies by violence per year, meaning that the probability of young Black trans women being murdered is more than seven times as likely than the average American. Black trans women have a life expectancy of just 35 years old in the United States.
- For those who survive, their quality of life is jeopardized by poverty, houselessness, unemployment, and anti-trans and/or anti-Black harassment. According to a survey administered by the National LGBTQ Task Force, Black trans people are twice as likely to be unemployed and more than twice as likely to live in extreme poverty than trans people of all races.
- The most recent case of violence against Black trans women occurred on July 23, in North Charleston, South Carolina. 29-year-old Denali Stuckey was fatally shot and found along a North Charleston roadway. Authorities have confirmed that they are investigating the death as a homicide, but said it was premature to identify it as a hate crime. Stuckey is the third Black trans woman murdered in South Carolina since 2018, which has no laws to enhance sentences for hate crimes. Read CBS News coverage here.
- Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors told Vice that she’d like to see Black Lives Matter and other anti-racist activists be more vocal in their support of Black trans women and bring these issues into their communities to help the public understand that both transphobia and anti-Blackness are contributing to this ongoing violence. Read the Vice article here.
How to Get Involved
Donate here to help pay for Denali Stuckey’s burial costs.
Hundreds of mourners gathered for a candlelight vigil on Monday, July 22, to honor the life of Denali Stuckey and #SayHerName. Joining community gatherings and protests is a great way to show up for Black trans women, especially if you’re a person with privilege who is less likely to be the victim of police violence. In order for this issue to be taken seriously, more people need to be vocal that this ongoing violence is unacceptable.
You can also petition lawmakers in South Carolina, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana and Wyoming to create protections that increase jail sentences for hate crimes. These are the only five states in the country that do not have such protections in place. One reason that these crimes continue to happen at this rate is because offenders do not fear the consequences of committing them.
You can also encourage your state lawmakers to outlaw the “trans panic” defense, which is a legal argument that justifies a person committing violence against a trans person after finding out their trans status. The defense has now been outlawed in six states. Research whether your state has active “walking while trans” laws that allow police officers to stop trans women simply for walking down the street under the belief that they could be soliciting sex. Under these laws, carrying a condom is enough evidence to arrest a trans woman on prostitution charges. This law also threatens trans immigrants with possible deportation.
2020 is an election year and Democratic presidential candidates have been tweeting about the murders of Black trans women, but have yet to suggest policies that would alleviate the issue. dedicated to the issue. Many of them — including Cory Booker, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren — voted in favor of FOSTA-SESTA, a bill that claimed to combat sex trafficking by introducing criminal penalties for websites involved in sex trafficking. Unfortunately, the bill does not differentiate between consensual and nonconsensual sex work and has made it more dangerous for those who choose to engage in sex work.
Warren and Sanders have conceded that they might be open to changing their position on sex work, while Senators Booker and Harris and Representatives Seth Moulton and Tulsi Gabbard told BuzzFeed News that they support decriminalization. One way to encourage candidates is to attend local town halls and question them on their positions. Understand that most politicians will say whatever they need to get elected, so pay close attention to their voting histories and make sure that related platforms are comprehensive and in-depth. Read more about discriminatory legislation that impacts trans populations.
Donate to groups that are providing legal aid and supporting trans communities, such as the National Center for Transgender Equality, Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, TransWomen of Color Collective, National LGBTQ Task Force, Audre Lorde Project, Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Transgender Law Center, Transgender Law and Policy Institute, and Human Rights Campaign.
Engage with news mindfully. Pick trusted websites to check for updates and set aside a specific time (set a timer if needed) for browsing news, rather than just clicking on every click-bait title that elicits intense emotion. Consider your current boundaries around how you digest your news and whether these guidelines are supporting your mental and emotional health.
Block triggering news sites, ads, people, or anything else that disturbs your peace while scrolling through social media. Remember that these are supposed to be tools of connection, so consider shifting who you engage with and how if you find them to be draining or unproductive.
Remember to breathe, especially in moments of overwhelm. If you feel helpless or defeated, simply return to your breath. Check out this article by Psychology Today on breathing techniques to alleviate anxiety.D
If you need extra support, try to find a friend or consider speaking with a professional who can help you work through some of your feelings around these issues. Seeking outside help is nothing to be ashamed of, in fact, it takes a great deal of strength to admit that you need help. If your friends are dealing with similar issues, a professional can be a great way to vent some of your frustrations and get to the root of your anxieties. If you can’t afford to speak to a therapist, consider using an app. Here’s a list with nine free mental health apps.