Abandoned by both of their parents, Blanca* and her sister moved in with their abusive uncle when they were young. Given the name “Oscar” at birth, Blanca was beaten at home and at school for playing with dolls and wearing pink. Her uncle forced Blanca to leave school by age 11, declaring that he would no longer support her and her sister because their parents had stopped sending him money. A few years later, Blanca and her sister left their uncle’s house in Central America to try and find their mother in Mexico.
Blanca’s story is not out of the ordinary at the Cibola County Correctional Facility, where NMILC staff members and volunteers travel to provide legal assistance and information for detainees. Cibola holds the country’s only immigrant pod dedicated exclusively to transwomen, all of whom have suffered abuse and oppression in their country of origin.
Once in Mexico, Blanca and her sister’s problems were far from over. Desperate for work, they were exploited by a woman who threatened to turn them in to the Mexican immigration authorities if they left. They were trapped for 5 years working without pay and were forced to have sex with men until one day they escaped with the help of a neighbor and fled to the United States.
At the U.S.-Mexico border, Blanca and her sister asked for asylum. Although they had regular check-ins with Immigration authorities, Blanca was able to start a normal life for the first time. In Texas, she met other transwomen and was able to start hormone treatments. After a couple of years of living in the U.S., her life was turned upside down one night when she was arrested in a hotel room on alleged prostitution, which was never proven and which she denies. She was taken to court and, when she said she couldn’t pay the $1000 bond, was taken in to an immigrant detention center.
Now Blanca is being detained in the Cibola County Correctional Center, where NMILC attorney Jasmine McGee is representing her. Together, they have worked to put together a strong case for her asylum claim, and we hope that soon she will be back to a normal life in Texas.
Without legal representation, many detained immigrants who fear persecution in their country of origin are deported and thrown back into the same dangerous situations that caused them to flee in the first place. Studies show that detained immigrants with an attorney are seven times as likely to win their case.
* Name has been changed to protect the identity of the individual