It’s May 7th and it’s a beautiful, sunny day in Tijuana, Mexico. The tourists are shopping downtown, people are opening shops, visiting restaurants and cafes. But the stories I have in front of me seem to come from another world.
I am in an undisclosed location to meet with a group of trans adolescent girls and young women asylum seekers that are part of the migrant caravan. I’m immediately put to work collecting declarations about the events of the last 72 hours for the attorneys with Al Otro Lado, a brand new Global Fund for Children partner.
Each declaration reads almost the same. Trauma after trauma after trauma.
There is Maricela* from Guatemala who was kicked out of her home by her mother at age 7 for her gender identity. She began engaging in sex work at age 13 and was forced to pay “taxes” to the gangs. The gangs regularly beat her and raped her. They killed one of her friends. She tried to leave Guatemala for Mexico, but the gangs followed her there and she again was raped and had her life threatened. She joined the caravan because she thought she may have a life free from gangs and free from persecution for being trans in the United States.
There is Helen* from Honduras who was kicked out of her home at age 17 for her gender identity. Her father is a member of the Mara 18 and he cut her throat with the intention of killing her, but she survived. “Gracias a Dios” she said. She moved throughout Honduras trying to escape him but he always found her. About a month and a half ago, he gave her 20 days to leave or she’d be dead. She joined the caravan to perhaps find some safety and acceptance in the United States.
There is Mayte* from Honduras who was threatened by the gangs because they wanted her to help transport drugs. They raped her and beat her. She moved to Mexico and successfully applied and received asylum here. But the gangs found her in the South. At one point they forced to into a taxi where they beat and threatened her life. She tried to move again, this time to Mexico City, only to find harassment and daily threats for being trans. She hopes seeking asylum in the United States will give her the protection Mexico could not.
There is Anita* from Honduras who was targeted by the gangs for her gender identity. They had beaten her and raped her. She spoke with her mom last week and heard that the gangs had come to her house; they said she’d be killed if and when she comes back. She joined the caravan because going home is not an option.
Then there were the events of the last 72 hours.
On May 5th, the group of trans girls and women were robbed and attacked at a shelter they had been staying at for a few days. The attack was at the hands of a group of locals who didn’t want trans people in their community. They returned the following day to set fire to the shelter.
On May 6th, the group of trans girls and women went the United States Port of Entry at San Ysidro to ask for asylum. They were accompanied by Nicole Ramos, an incredible attorney with Al Otro Lado. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official said that they were full, that they’d have to wait. The group of women, with the help from Nicole, pleaded with the CBP officer to let them seek asylum. They said they were unsafe, they explained what happened to the shelter they were staying in, they pleaded to not have to return to Tijuana where they were unwelcome. The CBP official turned them away again.
The group then returned to the area below the Port of Entry to try and wait. Mexican officials then began harassing them and told them they couldn’t be there. The moved to different areas, but everywhere they went the officials moved them. They explained that there were other people waiting outside, waiting in the same places they tried to wait. But because they were trans women, they were targeted and forced to leave.
The group then traveled to a church outside the city that had volunteered to receive them and provide them shelter. However when they arrived they weren’t let in the door. The representative of the church told them that they don’t accept homosexuality, they wouldn’t let trans girls and women like them in their doors.
So again the group traveled to find a hotel. As they wandered the streets looking for a place to stay they were harassed and shouted at.
Today is May 7th and the group is desperate. They are wondering if they can travel to a different port of entry to seek asylum, but fear more harassment and violence. They fear getting turned away again.
It’s a problem they shouldn’t have. Under Title 8, Section 1225 of the United States Code, what these girls and women are doing is entirely legal.
The violence they are fleeing and the violence they are facing in Tijuana is the reason why asylum exists.
They deserve safety. They deserve a life free from fear. And they deserve to have their rights protected.
*All names have been changed to protect their identities
Global Fund for Children (GFC) UK Trust, created in 2006, is a UK registered charity (UK charity number 1119544). We work to generate vital income, create new fundraising opportunities, and raise awareness of the invaluable work of GFC’s grassroots grantees. Our aim is to extend the reach of GFC in the United Kingdom, Europe, and beyond.
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