Vigil for Victoria Arellano, transgender immigrant killed by ICE neglect

Immigrant and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights organizations participated in a Los Angeles vigil for


Protesters demand justice for Victoria Arellano, Aug. 29, Los Angeles.
Photos: LA Indymedia

Victoria Arellano, a transgender immigrant afflicted with HIV/AIDS who died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody. The action took place at the downtown federal building on Aug. 29.

Arellano, 23, died on July 20 after ICE agents denied her access to AIDS medication that would have saved her life. The vigil was organized by Bienestar, a service oriented organization that deals with issues of HIV/AIDS care in the LGBT and Latino communities. mobilized for and attended the vigil.

Well over 100 activists attended the vigil, including members of the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism). Signs read “Stop transgender discrimination,” “ICE kills immigrants” and “Justice for Victoria.”

Arellano’s mother, Olga, spoke about the struggle that her daughter faced in the last two months of her life in ICE custody. “I can only find the strength to talk about this because I want people to know what is going on inside that place,” Olga said.

Arellano spent much of the time she was detained struggling to get ICE agents to provide her with the AIDS care that she badly needed. Her demands were unfulfilled.

ICE has no enforceable detention standards. Lack to access of medical care in detention facilities is systemic and not incidental. In Arellano’s case, this repression against undocumented workers was amplified by discrimination against her for being a transgender woman. Ultimately, it caused her unjust death.

Arellano was finally taken to a hospital before she died after male detainees sharing her cell rallied behind her.


Detainees carried her to a toilet when she was too weak to walk. Cell mates also used cardboard boxes as makeshift trashcans to collect vomit that Arellano could have beside her bed.

In her last hours, prisoners disobeyed ICE agents’ orders for a head count and began chanting “hospital.” ICE relented and took her to a hospital. There, she received the incorrect medication and died chained to her bed.

Sixty-two immigrants have died under ICE custody since 2004, many from the lack of adequate medical care.

Arellano’s death is a terrible tragedy and an outrage. The bigoted federal government is squarely to blame.

Her death is also a clarion call for working-class unity against government repression. The interests of workers for equality are one in the same, whether for LGBT rights or immigrant rights.

Justice for Victoria Arellano!


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