ICE releases 14 transgender asylum seekers

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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has released from its custody 14 transgender women who are seeking asylum in the U.S.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts in a July 31 press release that announced the trans women’s release said they had been detained at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, N.M.

The press release notes the ACLU of Massachusetts’ Immigrant Protection Project, 18 lawyers and two law students in June petitioned ICE through a New Mexico organization to release 20 trans women who were seeking asylum in the U.S.

The ACLU of Massachusetts says the trans women left El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala and arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in May. The press release notes ICE detained them once they entered California.

“The women suffered harm because of their gender identity in their home country, and were found by federal immigration officials to be at serious risk of persecution if they were returned to their home country,” reads the press release.

“We kept fighting and we won,” said ACLU of Massachusetts’ Immigrant Protection Project Coordinator Javier Luengo-Garrido in the press release. “This victory has changed the lives of 14 women, and has energized us to continue fighting for people’s basic human rights.”

Violence and persecution based on gender identity remains pervasive in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

An activist in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, who has previously received death threats told the Washington Blade last month during an interview at her office that insecurity and a lack of economic opportunity are among the reasons that prompt trans Hondurans to migrate from the country. Advocates in El Salvador with whom the Blade spoke last month also said violence and poverty prompt LGBTI Salvadorans to seek refuge in the U.S.

“People are not going to the U.S. because it’s cold,” said Andrea Ayala, executive director of Espacio de Mujeres Lesbianas por la Diversidad, an advocacy group known by the acronym ESMULES, during a July 13 interview in the Salvadoran capital of San Salvador.

President Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy that includes the separation of migrant children from their parents continues to spark outrage in the U.S. and around the world.

The wall that marks the Mexico-U.S. border from the beach in Tijuana, Mexico, on July 20, 2018. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Roxana Hernández — a trans Honduran woman with HIV who U.S. Customs and Border Protection took into custody on May 9 when she asked for asylum at the San Ysidro Port of Entry south of San Diego — was at the Cibola County Correctional Center before she died at a hospital on May 25. U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) in June said after he traveled to South Texas there are no policies in place that specifically address the needs of trans, gay, lesbian, bisexual and intersex migrant children who the Trump administration has separated from their parents.

A picture of Roxana Hernández, a transgender Honduran woman with HIV who died in ICE custody in May, hangs on a wall inside the offices of Colectivo Unidad Color Rosa, an LGBTI advocacy group in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on July 11, 2018. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

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