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  • Transgender Migrant Rights, Reproductive Justice, and the Mexico–US Border in the Time of COVID-19
  • Leandra Hinojosa Hernández (bio) and Sarah De Los Santos Upton (bio)

In the past few years, headlines have dominated United States and international news outlets about the reproductive, sexual, and gendered violence occurring at the Mexico–US border, in particular at the junction of El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, and the violence that women, families, and LGBTQ individuals are subjected to during their migration experiences. As Chicana feminist reproductive justice scholars operating in the psychological and physical borderlands,1 we have interrogated the ways in which reproductive injustices—reproductive feminicidios, the incarceration of Brown and Black mothers, and the (in)voluntary sterilization of Latin American women—affect Latinx and Latin American women in devastating ways.2 Furthermore, public and news discourses about Latinx and Latin American reproductive injustices have the powerful potential to shape how larger public imaginaries make sense of reproductive injustice and violence, in particular against Brown and Black women's bodies. Located within concerns about news coverage of reproductive and gendered violence are the ways in which violence against transgender Latinx and Latin American women is framed.

For example, Roxsana Hernandez, a thirty-three–year-old, HIV-positive transgender migrant from Honduras, arrived safely at the Mexico–US border in May 2019. She later died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody from what can be described as medical neglect.3 Moreover, Johana Medina, [End Page 142] a migrant transgender woman from El Salvador, died in a Texas hospital after she was criminalized and denied medical care.4 Her death in migrant custody raises several questions about the larger pattern of systemic abuse by ICE agents against LGBTQ migrant asylum seekers, as journalists reported that ICE's statement on Medina's death used her dead name, perpetuated problematic narratives about transgender individuals, and parroted false claims about how certain individuals (read: transgender individuals) "bring unknown diseases" into the country.5 Roxsana and Johana's cases are but two of many that highlight the intertwined nature of gendered violence inflicted upon migrant women's bodies, the added transphobic violence against transgender migrant women, and the ways in which transphobia, racism, and misogyny lead to detrimental health outcomes and death at the US–Mexico border.

Using gendered and sexual violence against women at the US–Mexico border as our larger macro framework and the violence against Hernandez and Medina as our micro examples, in this essay we explore the ways in which queer and transgender perspectives can and should be leveraged in larger theoretical, methodological, and applied conversations about reproductive justice, in particular in the current COVID-19 age. As we have illustrated in earlier research,6 larger conversations about reproductive rights and reproductive justice are often framed in binary approaches to reproductive choices versus reproductive rights. In this essay, heeding Chávez's call7 that we should do intersectionality where it matters most, we assert that theoretical and applied conversations about reproductive rights and justice should move beyond the previously held binary to include queer and transgender theoretical and methodological considerations as well.8

The Mexico–US Border and COVID-19

In the past few years, when thinking of the Mexico–US border, the American imaginary has likely focused on the continued occurrence of family separation and detainment camps.9 However, as COVID-19 spread throughout the United States like wildfire in early 2020, the Mexico–US border has now become ravaged with COVID-19 cases resulting from lack of social distancing, too many individuals in close confinement, no healthcare structure or system in place to provide necessary healthcare to migrant families, and unsafe workplace conditions for essential workers. These unsafe work conditions are especially problematic for undocumented folx who were not included in the stimulus package and do not qualify for unemployment, forcing them to choose between their health and the need to work to secure food and shelter. Compounding these issues for [End Page 143] Texas border communities, Governor Greg Abbott has used executive orders to prematurely reopen the state and prevent the enforcement of health measures such as masks. In particular, officials in El Paso have...


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pp. 142-149
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