Borjas arrived in the United States at the young age of 20 and dedicated her life to activism. The world sadly lost a hero to the deadly virus.
If there is anything that the ongoing public health crisis has shown us, is that it does not discriminate. No matter who you are or how many good deeds you have done, you can still succumb to the deadly Coronavirus. The disease's latest victim is transgender Latina activist Lorena Borjas, CNN reports. She passed away at around 5:22 am on Monday morning at Coney Island Hospital, where she was admitted. After moving to the United States at the young age of 20, she dedicated her life to improving rights for trans women, undocumented immigrants, those living with HIV/AIDS, and sex workers. Borjas leaves behind an unforgettable legacy of fighting for justice and equality.
Several messages of condolence came flooding in from prominent personalities, including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Attorney General Letitia James, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and blogger Monica Roberts. Needless to say, the activist will be terribly missed. "Lorena spent her life tirelessly fighting and supporting our trans sisters, making sure they were treated with dignity and respect they deserve," Make the Road New York affirmed in a statement. "We will truly miss her. May she rest in power and love." Make the Road is an organization that fights for the rights of immigrant and working-class communities.
Borjas migrated to the United States from Mexico in 1981. She was only 20 years old at the time. She moved as she wanted to find professionals who could help her transition. While she received the medical help she needed, she remained undocumented until 1986. This is when she was given amnesty under a law enacted by then-President Ronald Reagan. Then, in 1990, she became a legal permanent resident. However, that very year, she was arrested on charges of prostitution and trafficking. Her subsequent convictions meant she could not apply to renew her permanent residency or apply to become a citizen of the United States. Perhaps it was because of her circumstances - or despite them - that she became an activist in 1995.
At first, she organized a transgender march to fight against "police policies and systems" and in order to help trans women diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. From then onwards, she was an active advocate for the rights of marginalized groups. Borjas simply wanted to help others find joy in their lives. Cristina Herrera, founder and CEO of Translatina Network and a friend of Borjas' since 1987, shared in an interview, "Lorena brought light to us when we were living through a very dark time here in New York. She brought us light when we were dealing with the crack epidemic, when we were dealing with the AIDS crisis, dealing with changes in immigration policies."
She affirmed, "She just wanted people to be okay." No matter what her own situation was, Borjas always found a way to help others in need. According to Herrera, the activist would hand newly-arrived immigrants with Metrocards so they could use the subway, talk with them on the phone and lend them a shoulder to lean on, and call people to remind them about medical appointments. She would even follow up with them to ask them how the appointments went. Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the LGBT and HIV Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, added, "She brought people into the office every week who needed legal support and made sure that I was paying attention to the crisis of policing and deportation facing her community."
"We had so much more access and privilege and yet she found a way to demonstrate that she was going to provide love and support to our growing family," he continued. "This is what she did for everyone." Lynly Egyes, the legal director of the Transgender Law Center, told TIME, "Lorena was honestly one of the most amazing women I’ve ever met. She was an activist, a warrior, a mother to so many."
On Monday night, about 250 people gathered online in order to host a virtual vigil for Borjas. They remembered her for her undying spirit and endless selflessness. The United States has truly lost a vibrant soul, leader, hero, and dear friend.