In a remote detention facility in New Mexico, isolated from immigrant rights organizations and legal assistance, is the only immigrant prison in the country that has a pod dedicated to holding transwomen. NMILC, in partnership with the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, is dedicated to ensuring that these women receive legal representation and can go on to live safe and secure lives in the United States. Many of the women have stories like Linda*, where seeking asylum in this country represents their only chance of escaping cycles of violence and oppression.
Growing up in Central America, Linda knew from a young age that she didn’t identify as a boy. Beaten by her alcoholic father and constantly bullied in school, Linda didn’t receive any protection from other family members or teachers. Before she turned 15, her teacher told her mother she could no longer go to school because her behaving like a girl was a sign of sickness—a sickness that might be passed along to the other boys at school.
Once she was kicked out of school, Linda was discriminated against by the people in her neighborhood for dressing as a woman. She was beaten and sexually assaulted by members of a prominent Central American gang, who threatened to kill her if she reported the incident to the police. Later, she was raped by soldiers who demanded that she cut her hair and act more like a man, threatening to kill her if she reported what happened.
Determined not to give up, Linda joined a group in Central America that advocated for the rights of transgender individuals. With her aunt, who is also a transgender woman, they fought for acceptance and legal rights in their country. However, after a final incident with the gang member, she and her aunt knew they had to flee the country immediately or risk being killed.
“I am here… looking for a better life for the two of us and to be able to show society that transgender women are capable of breaking barriers… in a decent country there are human rights and our voices are heard.” -Linda, NMILC Client
Linda is currently being detained in the Cibola County Correctional Facility in Milan, NM, where NMILC attorney Rebekah Wolf is her attorney. Rebekah met Linda at NMILC’s weekly legal orientation program at Cibola, where NMILC staff and volunteers assist asylum seekers from around the world with understanding the complicated U.S. asylum process.
* Name has been changed to protect the identity of the individual