US: LGBTQ Asylum Seekers Face A Special Kind of Hell

There is a lot to know about the current immigration issues—none of which are easy to understand—but many of the conversations focus on families being separated. We see photos of children being taken from their caregivers. We hear about the awful conditions in detention centers. We see parents and children dying just to try to make it to the U.S. southern border, where, if they had made it, they would have been treated like animals. We can’t look away from these stories. We can’t forget the LGBTQ asylum seekers either. Members of the LGBTQ community need our attention too.

Allegra Love, an attorney and the Executive Director at Santa Fe Dreamers Project, works with transgender women crossing the U.S. southern border to help them seek and apply for asylum from the persecution they experience in Central American countries. Love told Scary Mommy that in Honduras, three transgender women have been murdered in the last week alone. LGBTQ people living in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala face unimaginable levels of discrimination, violence, and death. They flee their homes with the hope of finding protection in the United States. Unfortunately, even if they make it across the border, LGBTQ asylum seekers are still at risk for assault and death. Transgender women are some of the most vulnerable detainees.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, confirms what hundreds of transgender women have been telling Love since reaching the American border: “People are facing vicious discrimination in Central America due to their gender identities, and have absolutely nowhere to run for safety.”

The United Nations and ICE have standards of care in place for LGBTQ folks, but ICE isn’t following them. The United Nations characterizes solitary confinement as a form of torture, and a report issued in March 2019 by attorneys for the ACLU of New Mexico, Santa Fe Dreamers Project, and Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center noted the dangerous and dehumanizing treatment of LGBTQ immigrants at the Otero County Processing Center. Transgender women and gay men are being refused medical care, are being raped, and are being forced to choose to continue being physical violated or sent to solitary confinement for “safety.” This treatment goes against U.S. policies to protect LGBTQ folks. Read more via Scary Mommy

"I decided to come to the U.S. to save my life," says Luz, a transgender asylum-seeker, in Sylvia Johnson's short documentary. In Honduras, Luz was shot multiple times by gang members who targeted her for her trans identity. She barely emerged with her life.