A group of 12 trans women and four gay men from Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Mexico crossed the border Thursday from Nogales, Mexico into Nogales, Arizona, in hopes of seeking asylum from persecution for their gender identity and sexuality.
Jorge Gutierrez, the national coordinator for Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement—one of the many organizations supporting the trans and gay migrants—told Splinter over the phone that over 125 people had gathered on both sides of the border to watch and support the group’s crossing.
Gutierrez said that all 16 members of the group crossed and turned themselves in to Border Patrol agents.
“The idea here is to demand that DHS and ICE to not detain them but to parole them into the U.S. so that they’re able then to fight for their asylum cases outside with community support, with their family, with their friends, with their loved ones,” he explained. “There’s a particular community within that community—the trans undocumented women—who are facing violence on top of being undocumented, but also because of their gender identity as trans women.”
The Trans Law Center and Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement posted live video updates on Facebook as the group prepared to cross the border.
A woman identified as Alexandra from Honduras spoke to FTQLM through the border before she crossed with the other 15 trans women and gay men.
Another member of the group, a 24-year-old trans woman from Guatemala whose name Splinter could not verify, said she was attacked on her way to the border.
“My family doesn’t accept me and I face discrimination from the general public. I’ve been humiliated,” she said. “They don’t give us jobs. They close the doors on us.”
Gutierrez called seeking asylum in the U.S. the “last resort” for the trans and gay people escaping persecution in their home countries.
“The members of the caravan are fleeing rampant discrimination, abuse, torture, and other forms of violence because of their gender identity or sexual orientation,” Transgender Law Center legal director Flor Bermudez said in a statement. “They should be eligible for asylum or other forms of relief and allowed to be paroled into the country.”
UPDATE: A CBP spokesperson sent the following statement to Splinter:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will work to enforce the law humanely, respectfully, and with professionalism. As we continue to work toward protecting our borders, CBP has not changed its policies affecting asylum procedures. The United States has long adhered to international laws and conventions allowing people to seek asylum on grounds that they are being persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, political beliefs, or other factors. CBP’s procedures are based on international law and focused on protecting vulnerable and persecuted persons. If a CBP officer or agent encounters a U.S.-bound migrant at or between ports of entry, without legal papers, and the person expresses fear of being returned to his/her home country, our officers process them for an interview with an asylum officer with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. CBP officers and agents do not determine or evaluate the validity of the fear expressed. As an agency, CBP adheres to law and policy on processing asylum claims and does not tolerate abuse of these policies.
Jorge Rivas contributed reporting.