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14 • BAY AREA REPORTER • January 5-11, 2017
Trans Lifeline co-founder released from ICE detention by Sari Staver
“Today I got to see how much my community has my back and it touched my heart.”
mmigration officials have released the co-founder of the nonprofit Trans Lifeline from custody after a harrowing six-day stay in a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Arizona. Nina Chaubal, 25, posted $4,500 bond, which represented less than half the money raised in 24 hours via a crowdfunding campaign. The remainder will be used to pay for related legal expenses. Chaubal, a trans woman who cofounded Trans Lifeline in San Francisco in 2013, was detained December 28 after immigration officials interrogated her at a checkpoint in Wellton, Arizona and learned that she was not a U.S. citizen. Many vehicles are routinely stopped to determine if everyone traveling is a U.S. citizen, a practice that is allowed under Arizona law, according to Andre Perez, Trans Lifeline’s director of communications. ICE officials did not respond to a request for comment by press time. Chaubal, who was travelling with her wife, Greta Gustava Martela, 47, also a trans woman, and other friends, was locked up when immigration authorities learned that her visa had expired and that her application for a green card was still pending, Perez said in a telephone interview. Chaubal and Martela were driving to Chicago, where they now live, after visiting California to research new
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The college board could see another change in leadership should Mayor Ed Lee opt to name Randolph to the vacant District 8 seat on the Board of Supervisors. As of the B.A.R.’s press time Wednesday, the mayor had yet to name his choice for the appointment. The person is expected to take their oath of office at 10 a.m. Monday, January 9 with the winners of the fall oddnumbered supervisor races. Late Tuesday afternoon Randolph told the B.A.R. he was looking forward to his swearing-in ceremony for the college board – his third since being tapped by Lee in 2015 to fill a vacancy – and addressing the numerous issues confronting the college board. “I have no idea beyond planning to start my term at the board of trustees tomorrow,” he said, noting it is an historic time for the community college system. “For the first time in City College history a majority of the board is openly LGBT, and we have a lesbian chancellor and two LGBT vice chancellors. That is kind of very exciting and a historic moment for our community to have leadership in place that
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Prop 64, which makes it legal for people over the age of 21 to possess cannabis, will go into full effect in January 2018, the deadline for the state to approve a legal and regulatory system that will enable retailers to sell cannabis. Cafe Flore “could be the perfect location” for a cannabis cafe said Alan, who looked at dozens of locations before writing an offer for the iconic eatery. “The Castro is the neighborhood where medical marijuana got started in this city,” said Alan, referring to the first dispensaries under Proposition 215, which legalized medical marijuana in 1996. Because it is currently illegal to smoke in restaurants, including outdoor seating areas, Alan foresees cannabis on the menu, infused in food and drinks. “Or used in ways
–Nina Chaubal the toll it continues to take on transgender people and our families. We must advocate for the release of all trans women from detention.” In a Facebook post January 4, Chaubal wrote: “Through my time being detained by ICE, they treated me and the other detainees like criminals. The more they did that, the less I felt like a criminal, the more I felt like I was a leader of the resistance being held by a bunch of fascists and that the resistance was going to get me out. “Today I got to see how much my community has my back and it touched my heart. I love you all so much,” Chaubal added. “I’m crying, but not because of what they did to me. It’s tears of joy seeing what all of you did for me.”t
locations for the agency, which has provided peer support for thousands of transgender people over the past two and a half years, Perez said. Originally from India, Chaubal came to the U.S. on a student visa and later got her H1B, a visa for foreign workers employed in the U.S., when she was offered a job at Google, said Perez. When she left Google to organize the Trans Lifeline, Chaubal and Martela married. But Chaubal ran into a stumbling block while gathering documents for her green card application because she couldn’t locate Martela’s divorce decree, which had been lost by government officials. Martela had been married to someone who
has since died, Perez said. The divorce decree is apparently necessary for green card approval, said Perez. Immigration officials took Chaubal to an ICE detention center in Eloy, Arizona, a privately run for-profit prison about two hours away from Wellton, where Martela waited in a motel. According to Perez, the Eloy facility has received national press attention for its “poor treatment” of detainees. Chaubal remained in custody until January 3, when she posted bond. She and Martela were expected back in Chicago in a day or two, Perez said. The funds raised in the crowdfunding campaign will be used to hire an experienced immigration attorney, who will explore
available options. The Arizona case has been transferred to Illinois, according to Perez. In addition to their successful fundraising campaign, Perez said that over 6,000 emails were sent by Chaubal’s supporters, urging the government to release her. “We believe the support helped expedite the case and keep the bail relatively low,” said Perez. Commenting on the situation in an email to the Bay Area Reporter, Flor Bermudez, detention project director at the Transgender Law Center, wrote, “Nina’s case is not typical. Most transgender women in immigration detention have been caught at the border while fleeing persecution or have been illegally profiled for behaviors they engaged in to survive. “There are currently over 40 transgender immigrants in detention who have yet to be visited by a lawyer, let alone a community member,” Bermudez added. “Criminalization and selective enforcement targeting transgender immigrants is a widespread crisis, and we cannot lose sight of the inhumanity of our immigration detention system and
is very diverse and very respective of our community.” Temprano and Williams did not respond to requests for comment by deadline Tuesday. The college board is facing a host of critical issues over the next six months, foremost of which will be the status of its accreditation and how that impacts its ability to attract students. It is bracing to learn later this month, or possibly in early February, if the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges will follow through on threats to revoke City College’s accreditation or find it is now in full compliance following a campus visit by a team of reviewers in October. Due to fierce backlash from lawmakers in California and Washington, D.C., the ACCJC placed City College on special restoration status to give it time to address its compliance issues that were first flagged five years ago. City College received an early Christmas present when news broke that the ACCJC’s embattled president, Barbara Beno, had been placed on administrative leave and that the U.S. Department of Education was pushing back its decision
to withdraw federal recognition of the ACCJC itself until next month. “We still are not out of the woods for our accreditation,” noted Randolph, who added, “A lot of the signs are looking favorable to us. But until that announcement comes that dark cloud still hangs above our heads.” Another focus will be selecting a new, permanent chancellor; the trustees are expected to make a decision by July 1 and have encouraged Lamb to apply. Once City College is assured of its accreditation, Randolph said increasing enrollment would be another “huge focus for the board of trustees.” Enrollment at City College has fallen precipitously, by 33-plus percent, since 2012 due to the ongoing fight over its accreditation, and its state funding is facing a $35 million cut this year as special stabilization money to help offset the enrollment declines is phased out. During fall editorial board meetings with the B.A.R. Temprano and Williams both flagged boosting enrollment as at the top of their agenda as it will positively impact the college’s finances going forward. They identified building stronger ties with the city’s public school system as well as local businesses as
part of the strategy they would pursue to see an uptick in enrollment. “We need a much stronger plan to increase the number of students,” said Temprano. “It can’t be we lost 30 percent of our students so we are cutting 30 percent of our classes.” With the legalization of recreational marijuana use in California, Temprano pointed to the expected boom in the cannabis industry as an area that City College could focus on with new class offerings. “We are the kind of city that should be thinking out of the box on that,” he said. Williams suggested City College could do more to attract business professionals who want to advance their education as well as people looking to learn English by offering more courses on weekends and online as a way to bolster enrollment. She also echoed the calls made by other trustees to see City College once again be the go to place to educate city employees who require ongoing training. “The business community enrollment dropped off because of the accreditation issue. We have to pick it back up,” said Williams, who attended City College and served in the student trustee position on the board. The college’s finances will also
continue to be front and center for the board this year. News broke last month that the college district owes the state $39 million because there are no records verifying instructors taught all of the students they claim to have in online classes from 2011 to 2014. College leaders had flagged the issue with state education officials several years ago, noted Randolph, and the local board has been given 10 years to pay back the money. “We are negotiating with the state on what our options are,” said Randolph, who added that, “in the past the state did not penalize colleges that are self-reporting problems.” Also a top priority will be working with City Hall to implement free City College for San Francisco residents, which voters adopted as policy in the fall election. The mayor and the Board of Supervisors, facing their own budget deficit this year, are fighting over how much money will be allocated to turn the policy into reality. The supervisors have called for $9 million to cover the fall semester, with Lee indicating he prefers spending $500,000 this fiscal year and $4.25 million annually going forward. “The whole free City College is going to capture a lot of working adults,” Williams had told the B.A.R.t
we may not have even thought about yet,” he added. While such changes are years away, Alan said the new owners have ambitious plans they hope to adopt almost immediately. “Improvements in the quality of food and service” are at the top of their list, he said. A new front of the house manager, Denae Silverman, will work with staff “to improve the customer experience,” said Alan. Denae Silverman, who has decades of experience operating restaurants, bars, and special events, is married to co-owner Aaron Silverman, who will also be involved in the day-to-day management of the restaurant. Alan, who will oversee the cannabis task force in its second and last year, will also be on the premises “quite a bit” in the first months, he said. The menu will be revamped to emphasize shared plates, “tapas style,” said Alan.
Before any changes are adopted, Alan said the new owners will hold a “makeover party” to get community input on proposed changes. A consulting cocktail mixologist will help with the beverage menu, he said. Some of those changes hopefully will be reflected on the menu prior to grand opening around Valentine’s Day, said Alan. The owners are meeting with architects and designers to figure out their priorities in spiffing up the restaurant, said Alan. “More comfortable seating,” is a must, he said. Improvements to the outdoor cafe to make it usable year round are also a “top priority,” he said. The restaurant plans to develop a line of private branded Flore foods, such as its own line of coffees. These products will be sold at the Castro Farmers Market held next door to the restaurant nine months of the year. If the plan to include cannabis
infused foods is eventually adopted, the restaurant might develop a line of infused products, such as salad dressings, said Alan.
“We think if we develop the right model it can be replicated across the country,” as an increasing number of states approve recreational use of cannabis, said Aaron Silverman. While developing their plan for a cannabis cafe, the two visited many available locations before they learned that Cafe Flore was on the market. “Given the tremendous history of community involvement here, we thought this would be really perfect,” Alan said. The two raised money from investors, enough to pay for the renovations and to carry the business until it can become profitable, said Alan. Current owner Stu Gerry and property owner J.D. Petras are staying on as minority owners, said Alan. The restaurant will drop the word “cafe” and be known as Flore going forward, said Alan. “You remember the definition. Flower,” he added.t
Nina Chaubal, left, and Greta Gustava Martela
Myriad issues await trustees
The improvements face hurdles, Alan acknowledged. The restaurant “in recent times” has been losing money, he said. In addition to bringing in new business, Alan said the owners face the challenge of bringing down labor costs and keeping menu prices “where they are still a good value.” Alan and Aaron Silverman have never worked together before, nor has either ever owned and operated a restaurant. The two met while doing cannabis advocacy work in California and, when they became acquainted, realized they shared a vision of a restaurant where residents enjoy and share cannabis while they socialize over food.
To contribute to the crowdfunding campaign, visit https://www. gofundme.com/help-nina-settleher-immigration. In the U.S., the Trans Lifeline number is (877) 565-8860; in Canada it’s (877) 330-6366. For information about volunteering for the lifeline, visit www. translifeline.org.