The Untold Story of Transgender Asylum Seekers in ICE Detention at Cibola




“I decided to come to the U.S. to save my life,” says Luz, a transgender asylum seeker, in Sylvia Johnson’s transient documentary Luz’s Story. In Honduras, Luz was shot a number of events by alleged gang members who targeted her for her trans id. She barely emerged alongside together with her life. As shortly as she was launched from the hospital, she was transferred to a Honduran jail on prices of defending her id. Upon her launch 10 months later, after being abused in jail, a number of gang members as soon as extra threatened her life.

Luz entered the United States via an official port of entry and requested for protection by the approach of political asylum. She was promptly imprisoned. “I had already been imprisoned [in Honduras] and didn’t want to experience another situation like what I had been through,” she says in the film.

Later, Luz could be taught that her Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility, New Mexico’s Cibola County Correctional Center, had beforehand been an authorized correctional jail. In October 2016, it was shut down in consequence of inhumane circumstances that resulted in a number of inmate deaths. Shortly thereafter, ICE supplied a contract of $30 million 12 months to the equivalent facility. It reopened in January 2017. Since early 2018, Cibola has incarcerated higher than 180 women in its “transgender pod”—the one acknowledged ICE-run detention facility for transgender-identifying women. According to Johnson, the incarcerated women, similar to Luz, have been in search of security from violence and persecution they’d suffered in their dwelling nation.

Luz says she spent three excruciating months in Cibola—two of which have been in solitary confinement. “It was really, really horrible for me,” she says. “I went into a depression that made me want to hurt myself.”

Johnson, who works part-time at the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, instructed me that the women in the trans pod face extraordinary hardships and obstacles to profitable their situations. “While in custody, they face a shocking lack of medical and mental health services,” she talked about. “They are put in abusive solitary confinement, they experience high levels of sexual assault, and they face discrimination from the government and the corporation that detains them.” Johnson cited the deaths of Roxana Hernandez Rodriguez in 2018 and Johana Medina Leon this 12 months as grave proof of ICE’s incapacity to detain trans women safely.

Luz’s Story, a collaboration between Johnson and the photographer Eduardo Montes-Bradley, is just one horrific account of the trauma expert by many trans asylum seekers.

“I was completely blown away by the resilience of Luz’s spirit and how vivacious she is despite what she has gone through,” Johnson talked about. “Luz has been through things that no human being should ever have to experience, and she is warm, kind, full of life, and unafraid to speak her truth.”

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