ICE Arrested a Trans Migrant Woman With Several Illnesses After Releasing Her

Supermajority Education Fund

January 29, 2020

A trans migrant woman, identified only by her first name, Joselin, was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) this month during what her lawyers expected to be a routine check-in and taken back to the same jail she was released from a month earlier, the Associated Press reported. Joselin faces the threat of persecution and violence if she is forced to go back to her home country, El Salvador, according to the AP. 

Joselin also has seizures as the result of traumatic brain injury, asthma, and anxiety and depression as a result of a 2008 sexual assault. Allegra Love, attorney and director of the Sante Fe Dreamers Project, told Supermajority News that although Joselin’s lawyer requested medical parole, she has not received it yet. 

According to a 2018 Center for American Progress analysis, LGBTQ immigrants held at federal detention centers are 97 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than other detainees. Sharita Gruberg, director of policy for the LGBTQ research and communications project at the Center for American Progress, told Supermajority News that while ICE claims trans people are often placed in solitary confinement or protective custody for their own safety, in reality, they’re being put at increased risk of sexual assault and irreparable psychological damage.

Joselin was first found by U.S. Border Patrol when she migrated in 2012. She was released to family members, but they did not want her to stay with them once they realized she was transgender. After she missed a hearing for immigration court, she received a removal order and was forced back to El Salvador, according to the AP. 

In 2019, she left El Salvador again and requested asylum while she waited in Mexico. She was admitted and sent to Cibola County, but due to the earlier removal order, she was told she couldn’t request asylum. In December, an immigration judge approved her for withholding of removal; This means she had shown more than a 50 percent chance of being persecuted in her home country based on belonging to a marginalized social group. She was released, but ICE has now detained her again, pending an appeal of the withholding of removal decision.

Gruberg said ICE has been fighting and appealing every single asylum case, no matter how strong it is or how clear it is that someone will be persecuted if they return to their home country.

“We know from the [Trump] administration’s policies that they don’t believe in asylum,” Gruberg told Supermajority News. “In this person’s case, they’re not just being put back in detention, which is cruel enough knowing what we know about how vulnerable, particularly trans people, are to assault and abuse and poor health outcomes folks are facing in detention. But somebody with acute medical needs being placed in circumstances where ICE has proven time and again that they are incapable or unwilling to provide adequate care, and willingly putting someone in harm’s way like that, is so cruel.”