Undocumented immigrants face many challenges from fearing deportation to heavy fines, but transgender immigrants have an even harder time because deportation for them could mean physical harm.
Deborah Alvarez came to the U.S. at the age of 13. She was deported after committing a low-level crime of prostitution solicitation in 2005. She was forced to return to her native Mexico where she feels that her life is in danger because she is transgender. Since being deported, Alvarez has experienced being shot at by rubber bullets during a police raid and continually receives threats and slurs. Alvarez has few jobs options available in Mexico because “No trans girl can find work in Juarez.” Alvarez’s story is similar to many other Mexican LGBT migrants. The Mexican National Institute of Public Health reports that “more than one-third of transgender migrants in shelters in Mexico experience violence and abuse.”
While LGBT immigrants have been able to seek U.S. asylum for the last two decades, less than 2 percent of people who apply for asylum are granted it. The majority of the time, immigrants who are detained do not have anyone to help them navigate the immigration courts. When immigrants are asked to sign papers and testify, they usually have limited or no knowledge of the English language or U.S. customs and end up missing their opportunity to file for asylum. If they do not have any sort of aid, the pattern of abuse tends to begin even before immigrants are returned to their home countries. U.S. detention facilities have tracked many allegations of sexual abuse, denial of medical treatment and forcing long-term solitary confinement of LGBT immigrants. Although the Obama administration has promised to prioritize criminal deportations, the majority of deportees are charged with low-level offenses ranging from driving violations to Alvarez’s prostitution solicitation and forced back to native countries that are less than welcoming.
If you have questions regarding the asylum or protections that have become available to same-sex couples, contact us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.