A petition for the release of a transgender activist seeking asylum from El Salvador has racked up 34,000 signatures since being launched. Alejandra Barrera, 44, requested asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border in November 2017 and has been held in immigration detention by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ever since.
Barrera was forced to flee El Salvador due to discrimination and violence — at 21 months, she is the longest detained trans woman in the Cibola Detention Facility.
Each year thousands of Central Americans cross the U.S.-Mexico border to escape violence and poverty, despite high rejection rates and measures by the Trump administration created to stop them.
“Often transgender migrants are criminalized for fleeing violence and seeking safety in a new country and place into an immigration system that further exposes us to mistreatment,” the petition reads. “Alejandra did not choose to migrate to the US for leisure, on top of the daily discrimination, she faced extortion and attacks, including sexual assault by a gang, and by the El Salvadoran military. All of this forced her to leave and seek a new life in the US. These compounding factors are overlooked by our current immigration system, as the US focuses on punitive approaches to immigration rather than offering support and safety. She was denied asylum in June of 2018.”
El Salvador along with Guatemala, and Honduras are among the highest national homicide rates in the Americas. Last year, Roxsana Hernandez Rodriguez, a trans woman from Honduras died while in ICE custody.
Earlier this month trangender activist Laverne Cox took to Twitter to demand ICE free Alejandra. Since, others like Chella Man have also signed the petition.
Nearly three dozen House members wrote a letter to ICE’s acting director, Matthew Albence demanding better treatment for detained transgender asylum seekers including Democrat representatives — noting concern for the “disturbing updates about the case of Alejandra Barrera,” the letter written earlier this month said.
“Despite documented health conditions that require specialized care, she remains at the Cibola County Correctional Center in Milan, New Mexico, and has been denied humanitarian parole five times. As you continue to review these cases, we ask that you seriously consider the sensitive nature of these requests for asylum and grant humanitarian parole for Ms. Barrera and others who are similarly situated,” the letter read.