Testimony to Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez

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Bamby Salcedo’s testimony at a congressional hearing with Rep. Loretta Sanchez on November 25, 2013:

Good morning Congress Member Sanchez and thank you so much for holding this important hearing for our community, please know that we do appreciate your commitment to the issues of Trans Latin@s. I also would like to thank MALDEF and Freedom to Work for giving me the opportunity to participate in this hearing. My name is Bamby Salcedo and I am the President of the TransLatin@ Coalition, a national organization that advocates for the specific needs and issues of TransLatin@ immigrants who reside in the United States. Our organization started in 2009 as a grass roots response to the needs and issues of TransLatin@ immigrants in the United States.

I am here to share with you some of the findings of TransVisible: Transgender Latina Immigrants in US society; TransVisible is a research project conducted by our organization in conjunction with Karla Padron who is a researcher with the University of Minnesota.  In this project we interviewed a 101 trans Latina immigrant women in different parts of the country. We generated a report that we are presenting to you, for you to have.  The focus areas of our report are: U.S. Identification, Education, Employment, Health Care Services and Interpersonal and Structural Violence; but for the purpose of this hearing and the limited time, I will only emphasize Employment, migration and health care.

In our TransVisible report we found that 61% of the participants reported coming to this country running away from violence in search of better economic opportunities, we also found in our study that 99% of the respondents stated that having a legal immigration status was very important to them and almost half of the participants were between 29 to 39 years of age.  In our study we also found that 51% of the participants had some type of employment, 22 of the respondents stated that they earn up to 11,170.00 per year but 37 of the respondents decided not to answer the question about how much money they earn in a year. We believe that many of the respondents who did not answer about how much money they made was because they were ashamed because they may consider their employer to be the sex industry or have very low paying jobs. A reason for us to believe this was because 91% of the people who said that they had employment responded that they do not have medical insurance through their work. 33% of the respondents stated that they have been fired or harassed in their place of work for being Trans Latina and 34% of the respondents reported being employed by the sex industry. Again, we believe that the 34% is low based on the interactions that we have with the community and the continuous lack of opportunities within our society for a trans person to be able to obtain employment. On this note is important specify that Trans Latin@s who are immigrant face additional barriers trying to secure employment, such as the acculturation to this country, language barriers and low educational levels to mention just a few. In our report there are a few personal testimonies, but I would like to share just one with you: “there are people who do not accept us because we are Trans, if we were accepted, we would be able to get a job anywhere” and that is exactly why The Employment Non Discrimination Act is vital in our community.

I constantly hear from members of my community how they are discriminated against at their work. Those who have a job often times they are not able to defend themselves due to fear of losing their jobs. One of our members in Florida is going through an issue that will be presented next. Another member of our organization is going through similar discrimination issues in San Diego from an organization that she works at that want for her to sign a voluntary resignation.

These are just a couple of examples that we are presenting to you, but the reality of our community is that many of these cases are not documented and often unheard of, in addition, there are many trans people who come forward to share their experiences with work discrimination but most of the LGBT legal organizations that are out there will not even hear our cases because they do not think is a “big case that will give the organization prestige” or it is not a case that will help them raise funds. Because of this, policy makers such as your self do not have the opportunity to hear what happens in our community but the truth is that our community is going through very challenging times when it comes to employment discrimination.

I want to thank you Congress Member Sanchez for your attention to my testimony. In closing I also would like to inform you that, I am a Trans woman who have benefited from community support, the community who saw me as an asset and not as a deficit.  I can proudly say that as a formally homeless person I am now a productive member of our society. I currently hold a position with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles overseeing our Health Education Unit and I also am a full time University student. Having this hearing gives me hope and it truly shows your investment in my community. I do understand that five minutes will not give us the opportunity to address all of our issues. I would like for us to continue the conversation on how together we can advance the issues of trans Latin@s and increase needed services for our community particularly those who are immigrant in this country and those who live in your district. Again, from the bottom of my heart I thank you for your attention to my testimony.

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About the author

Bamby Salcedo

Bamby is a nationally recognized transgender Latina woman activist, academic, public speaker, community organizer and artist. Bamby has created and found several organizations and projects such as Angels of Change, the first trans youth calendar aimed at providing trans youth with a positive image and the TransLatin@ Coalition. Bamby has participated in numerous state and national conferences and colleges as a presenter and motivational speaker. Bamby has been recognized locally and nationally for her great work in the community.

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