• Press Release

Longest Detained Trans Asylum Seeker in New Mexico Detention Center Must Not Be Deported

April 25, 2019

Amnesty International USA is increasingly concerned by the treatment of Alejandra*, a transgender Salvadorian activist who has been held in ICE detention since 2017. In partnership with the TransLatin@ Coalition, and the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center, Amnesty International is calling on ICE to stop Alejandra’s deportation and release her on parole after Alejandra’s request for a stay was denied.

“Alejandra has survived repeated extortion, threats and sexual assault in El Salvador, only to be denied her freedom while seeking safety in the United States. All Alejandra has done is exercise her fundamental rights to seek asylum. Her deportation must be stopped immediately and she must be released to be with friends and family awaiting her liberation. But faced with imminent deportation, Alejandra’s life is at great risk if she is deported to El Salvador,” said Rebekah Wolf, Alejandra’s lawyer.


Alejandra fought for transgender rights for more than a decade in El Salvador. She was forced to flee after repeated attacks and extortion by a criminal gang, as well as abuses by the Salvadoran military. Alejandra was sexually assaulted by both the gang and military personnel because of her transgender identity. ICE is currently detaining Alejandra with inadequate and unresponsive health care at the Cibola County Detention Center in New Mexico.

Amnesty has grave concerns about ICE’s conduct in its handling of Alejandra’s parole requests. Amnesty is concerned that she did not receive a proper initial parole interview, and subsequent denials of parole requests were unreasoned and did not consider the documents submitted or her medical conditions.

ICE’s actions concerning Alejandra suggest a practice of virtual blanket denial of parole as enjoined in Damus v. Nielsen and documented in Amnesty International’s Oct 2018 report, USA: ‘You don’t have any rights here’: Illegal pushbacks, arbitrary detention & ill-treatment of asylum-seekers in the United States.  Alejandra’s case is under the jurisdiction of the El Paso field office, one of the five field offices at issue underDamus, and her parole request falls within the same timeframe.

International human rights standards contain a strong presumption against the detention of asylum-seekers and immigrants.  Detention should only be used as a measure of last resort; it must be justified in each individual case and be subject to judicial review.  Detention of an asylum-seeker solely on the basis of a person’s migration status is unlawful.

Amnesty is gravely concerned that Alejandra has not received a meaningful individualized assessment of her request of parole from immigration detention, and that her continuing detention is intended to deter and punish asylum-seekers.