• Press Release

Amnesty International Calls on ICE to Release Detained Transgender Woman Rights Activist

June 7, 2018

A transgender woman and LGBT rights activist who suffered persecution and sexual assault in El Salvador is being unreasonably held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and must be released from the Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico, said Amnesty International today. Alejandra (last name withheld for her protection) struggles to receive the adequate medical care she needs while in detention.

The case is especially urgent in light of the recent death of another transgender woman in ICE custody who was briefly held in the same unit.

“Alejandra deserves the opportunity to live safely and freely while awaiting the decision on her case. People have the right to seek asylum from persecution. There is no reason why she should be locked up for seeking protection,” said Denise Bell, researcher for refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International USA.

“Alejandra spent over ten years defending the rights of trans people in El Salvador. It is now time for us to come together and support her. We are calling on ICE to immediately release her on humanitarian parole while she awaits the decision on her asylum claim.”

Alejandra fled El Salvador in 2017 to escape repeated extortion, threats and attacks. She was sexually assaulted by members of a transnational criminal gang as well as the Salvadoran military because of her transgender identity. Fearing it is not safe for her to return to El Salvador, Alejandra has been exercising her right to seek asylum to stay in the United States. She hopes to be reunited with her trans niece, who has already won asylum in the US.

On May 25, Roxana Hernandez, a 33-year-old transgender Honduran woman, died in ICE custody at a hospital in New Mexico from medical complications. Her death highlights the risks that trans asylum seekers with acute medical needs face in immigration detention.

In addition to calling on ICE to release Alejandra, Amnesty International has asked its seven million members, supporters and activists worldwide to take action on her behalf. The call to action can be found here: https://act.amnestyusa.org/page/25608/action/1