As part of our 2019 Holiday Commissary Fundraiser, we raised and distributed more than $40,000 to organizations working directly with incarcerated trans folks and trans folks navigating immigration detention. Here’s how the funds were split between the beneficiaries:
We are especially proud to have supported the Sylvia Rivera Law Project and Diversidad Sin Fronteras (DSF), who together turned their donations into more than 75 microgrants for their clients battling asylum and immigration detention proceedings. DSF used their donations to provide vital rent relief to more than 40 trans migrants across the Southwest and Sylvia Rivera Law Project used their funds to support trans prisoners in need of a more sustained boost to their commissary accounts.
ABO Comix supported more than 20 queer prisoners with commissary funds in addition to mentorship, resource mapping and portfolio development for incarcerated artists. ABO amplifies and uplifts the voices of those on the inside who have been denied access to outlets for creative expression and are discovering and honing their skills through ABO’s penpal programs.
Then there’s Tucson LGBTQ Detainee Support, a small group of queer people in southern Arizona responding in solidarity with trans women and other LGBTQ folk in ICE detention. They run a small commissary fund in partnership with Trans Queer Pueblo, an LGBTQ migrant of color and formerly incarcerated-led community group based in Phoenix, AZ. With the money from Trans Lifeline and grassroots fundraising, they were able to sustainably support over 82 trans and LGBTQ asylum seekers with monthly commissary support, letters, and books. In just this past year, over 65 individuals have been liberated from ICE detention due to the leadership and organizing of Tucson LGBTQ Detainee Support. With Trans Queer Pueblo’s oversight, they were able to fill a huge gap — economically supporting the trans women and LGBTQ asylum seekers that Trans Queer Pueblo is led by and advocates for in their fight for freedom and dignity for all transgender and LGBTQ migrants of color.
Trans Queer Pueblo (TQP) used their funds to support trans migrants either immediately after being released from detention or within 6 months of release. These expenses included: plane tickets, food, clothing and medication upon release. An unexpected area of expense this year was in pandemic response — because of the extreme precariousness of our community in the face of COVID-19, some of these funds paid for recently released trans migrants’ telephone, water and electricity bills, and rent.
The Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico similarly turned their holiday commissary fundraiser donations into more than 50 points of both commissary and post-release support for trans migrants, including resource packets for those recently released. Most of their client asks were humble in nature: a trip to the local Walmart to stock up on essentials in order to rebuild a life outside of detention, phone calls to loved ones, lawyers and housing support.
For 2020, the Microgrants program will deepen our support for Black-led organizations and expand the holiday fundraiser to benefit organizations providing bail funds. Historically, our support has resided along the southwestern border of the United States, where many of our personal and professional connections are doing important and urgent work responding to immigration and prison crises. The world looks a little different this year, and we’d like to shift our focus to account for that by working directly with Black and trans-led bail funds and collectives providing support to our siblings on the inside or actively working to get them out. We know that trans liberation is meaningless so long as any trans person can be unjustly profiled, harassed and detained by the state.